Pro-con: Is Obama overreaching on executive orders?

Inaugural Swearing InFact is, U.S. presidents do have vast powers under Article II of the Constitution, especially when it comes to waging war and protecting national security. But “vast” isn’t the same as “unlimited.” Too many presidents – Republican and Democrat – have stretched the interpretation of their powers to the limit, and sometimes beyond. In that sense, President Obama is no different from past presidents. But in crucial ways, he has used and abused his powers in ways his predecessors could only fantasize about. Unilaterally raising the federal minimum wage for government contractors may have Republicans in Congress pulling their hair out, but that’s among the least of this president’s usurpations of their lawmaking authority. Committing American airpower in 2011 to help overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi without so much as consulting Congress was a milestone in presidential overreach. Obama decided in 2012 that Congress wasn’t doing enough to reform U.S. immigration laws, so he signed an executive order barring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service from deporting minors and relatives of U.S. service members living in the United States illegally. When the president decided to delay his health care law’s “employer mandate,” he engaged in nothing less than wholesale lawlessness. Congress has for too long delegated far too much of its power to the executive branch. It’s past time the legislative branch used its authority to hold this president to account. – Ben Boychuk, City Journal

Two words: “Unitary executive.” You might not remember those words – Republicans in Congress certainly don’t seem to. They were the name of a theory, advocated by Dick Cheney in particular, under which the George W. Bush administration unilaterally chose to ignore Congress and its legal obligations, pretty much whenever it chose. A law against warrantless wiretapping? Ignore it. Treaties against torture? Ignore them. Don’t like the new law Congress passed? Don’t veto it – sign it, but add a “signing statement” explaining why you won’t actually obey it. All of this happened with the near-total acquiescence of congressional Republicans throughout the Bush administration. Much as it did its love of fiscal austerity and the filibuster, the GOP rediscovered its fidelity to the rule of law with alacrity in 2009, when President Obama took office. It’s clear what’s going on here: Republicans don’t believe in a constrained, limited presidency. They believe in constraining and limiting Democrats. It’s not the same thing, and observers can be forgiven for rolling their eyes at the crocodile tears of self-styled defenders of the Constitution. If Republicans want to limit the presidency, let them prove it when one of their own is in the White House. – Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Magazine