“When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans said, ‘my number one priority is making sure President Obama’s a one-term president.” That was Mitch McConnell, saying that his goal, from day-one, was to obstruct the new president, in 2009. For the past six years, President Barack Obama was stiffed at every turn. His response was to sign executive orders, to achieve whatever he thought he could, without facing Congressional obstruction.

They called it “Executive Overreach.” But he faced clear, stated, celebrated obstruction, so it was the only way he could accomplish anything at all. Then, it was up to the courts to decide if he went too far. Checks and balances. And he did get his hand slapped.

That is not the reality of President Donald Trump. He has the United States House of Representatives in his pocket, a majority in the Senate, and will soon have an iron-clad majority on the Supreme Court again (thanks to the unprecedented, and arguably unconstitutional, obstruction of Merrick Garland, a year ago). Trump has a huge majority of governors and state legislatures. The Democrats don’t have any national power of any kind. Yet, Trump has decided to make his own, unilateral rules, anyway, according to the conservative Washington Examiner.

Fifteen — that’s how many executive orders it took President Trump to issue before congressional Republicans balked.

Lawmakers hate being cut out of the action, but as long as Trump was inking commands they agreed with, Republicans were OK with it. That changed Saturday when Trump issued a sweeping order that curtails travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. . .

But top Republicans, as well as rank-and-file GOPers, were stunned that Trump pulled the trigger on such an expansive order without input from key cabinet officials, such as the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security—let alone from lawmakers.

“They should’ve been consulted,” and lawmakers should have been too, Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. said about the cabinet secretaries. . .

“No one really knows what the red line for Republican voters would be and where they would start to sour on Trump” and if any such souring would be over his style or the substance of his actions, Reynolds said.

Beyond public backlash, Republicans have to worry about accusations of hypocrisy.

“If you criticize the Obama administration for doing something, and if the Trump Administration does the exact same thing and you don’t say something, that is hypocrisy,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., charged Tuesday.

The conservative Red State also weighed in on Trump’s executive order on Obamacare.

Here is what is beyond dispute: Obama did engage in overreach. The Affordable Care Act gives the President wide discretion in certain areas, but in other areas it sets specific deadlines, such as with the employer mandate. When Obama claimed the authority to change that deadline for political reasons, he was engaged in clear overreach. We all said so at the time. And if Trump tries the same thing, he will be too. . .

I may be a lonely voice here, but if the President doesn’t have authority to do something, he doesn’t have it whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. He doesn’t have unconstitutional authority even if a previous President claimed that authority. If one President declares war without obtaining a declaration from Congress, that is unconstitutional no matter how many previous presidents did the same. . .

Will Donald Trump’s executive order be used to engage in the type of overreach Barack Obama routinely employed? I’m not sure yet. But if it is, conservatives need to lay down a marker now: this will not be acceptable.

Even if Barack Obama did it.

That article talked about the danger of setting precedents. Once Congress gave up war powers, for instance, they have not, and may never get them back. We could reasonably argue that the war in Korea was a United Nations action, so a U.S. war declaration wasn’t necessary. We couldn’t say the same about Vietnam, and for a full half-century, Congress has just been a paperweight. A doorstop. An unnecessary body, when it comes to “declaring” war. And that’s just one example. The chief executive already has huge and ever-growing authority—power.

James Wallner, of the Heritage Foundation, wrote that presidential power is dangerous, whether it’s “your” president, or not. Quoted in the conservative DailySignal:

Presidential administrations today routinely make law without the approval of Congress. . .

Widespread attention to the daily machinations on Capitol Hill and the outcome of congressional elections signal that most continue to think that something important is being decided when control of the House of Representatives and the Senate is up for grabs.

Old habits die hard.

In reality, the power of the House and Senate vis-à-vis the presidency is declining, as many are quick to throw out the constitutional framework on which our political system is based when it acts as an impediment to getting what they want. Today, gridlock in Congress is held up as making unilateral action by the president necessary. . .

The routine practice of presidents today of making law without the prior approval of Congress threatens the liberty of all Americans because it erodes the separation of powers in our federal government.

Instead of being subject to laws written by their representatives in the legislature, the American people are increasingly subject to the whims of a distant and impersonal executive branch over which they have little influence.

Assessing unilateral executive action solely by the policies a president seeks to implement is trivial, an affront to the framers’ preoccupation with preventing undue executive influence in the process of making law in Congress.

Judged from this perspective, unilateral executive action to make policy absent congressional approval should worry everyone, even those who may like the policy to be implemented.

One could, maybe, forgive, or at least empathize with Barack Obama for trying to bypass Congress, since that Congress would not even allow him to fulfill his duty of replacing a dead SCOTUS judge. But Trump has no such excuse. His party holds every conceivable lever of power, and now is the time for Congress to grow some. . .backbone. . .and assert its rightful, constitutional authority. Or kiss democracy goodbye.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t totally agree that Obama was “stiffed” at every turn, I think it cuts both ways. Obama is an ideologue and had an agenda. That agenda included zero negotiation over his core beliefs, such as pushing his health care legislation with zero amendments accepted from Republicans. No doubt McConnell wanted to obstruct, that’s what minority parties do, and Democrats will do the same to Trump.

    Another example is gun control. If Obama had compromised just slightly and accepted a slightly weaker piece of legislation on some kind of expanded background checks, he very likely could have had some deal to pass some tighter restrictions on various things. However, he would would not compromise on it and therefore, nothing changed despite lots of complaining.

    Obama was an “all or nothing” kind of negotiator. Which is to say he rarely ever negotiated. It remains to be seen whether Trump will handle it differently. Will he compromise to get what he wants? President Obama did not. President Trump has yet to show us.

  2. Unprecedented? Isn’t the argument that they wait until a new president is chosen before confirming a SC judge?

      • Nate…It is a dirty deed indeed to sabotage the selection and approval time of a presidental appointee regardless of which party does it. Republicans want to blame their nasty habit of refusing to have hearings on nominees they dislike on something Senator Joe Biden said back in 1992. Whatever it was, (which he disputes) was not reflected in his votes. A Democratic Senate never refused to hear a Republican president’s nominee. Even if they were opposed, they allowed the nominee to come to a comfirmation vote. Feel free to fact check this.

        • The Democrats should filibuster, and by “filibuster,” I don’t mean the silly game they play, about counting votes and giving up if the opposition has numbers.

          I mean that one of our elected officials should do what they always used to do–stand on the floor and speak for as long as they can.

          Bring back the REAL filibuster. That will give the public time to weigh in–which is how the system is supposed to work.

  3. He is a mentally deficient, power-hungry megalomaniac. That much was obvious before the election. It should be obvious to all, but the wilfully ignorant now.

  4. One thing we all know, Trump has shown us is that he not a conventional president. We have a president whose behavior is leading us down the path of martial law, authoritarian rule, and war. On the Senate floor in late January, Senate majority leader Mitch O’Connell said “We’re all in this together. We rise and fall as one”. This is a new song for McConnell. How long will the choir sing it with him?
    The man who really owns Trump’s ear is Steve Bannon, whose alignment is with the far right and white nationalism. Thanks to his previous leadership of Breitbart, here is one of his quotes: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Watch out O’Connell and company. You are the establishment.
    Obama might have been an “all or nothing” kind of negotiator but give him a little credit for having a good relationship with our allies. In congress, who did he have to negotiate with? Lest we forget what Mitch O’Connell said when Obama took office “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” This wasn’t just thrash talk as O’Connell and Boehner did everything in their power to block Obama’s agenda that term and his next.

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