Handcuffed by an obstructionist Congress, and within three years of the end of his second and final term, President Barack Obama tested a new way of governing. The possibilities of adopting draft laws, as was health care reform in 2010, are minimal. The alternative is for the president to rule by decree. Calls executive orders and other instruments with legal value allows them to avoid a hostile legislature since 2011 the GOP took control of the House of Representatives. The Senate remains in Democratic hands of Obama.
The use of unilateral measures in a democracy founded on the balance of power, is controversial, but not new. All presidents have found ways to govern on their own when they found that Congress did not help them. And all the opposition parties have alleged a violation of the system of checks and intolerable increase in the power of the president.
“The idea that the president defends the executive and promote his policies when he does not get the cooperation of the Congress can be traced to George Washington,” says political scientist Gerhard Peters, co-director of the American Presidency Project at the University of California in Santa Barbara and professor of Citrus College.
Peters cites the creation of natural parks decision of Theodore Roosevelt in the early twentieth century and the end of racial segregation in the armed forces by Harry Truman in 1948, not a law passed by Congress but by executive order.
In recent months, Obama has used this tool to advance his legislative agenda. “I have a pen, and I have a phone,” he said in January, referring to the tools to sign decrees and encourage activists and citizens to help him rule the unexpired term.
The president has invoked his executive authority to combat climate change and force power plants to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide. He also appealed to the “power of the pen ” to raise the minimum wage for companies working for the federal government. This week, after testing for dead ambitious immigration bill that the House boycotts, announced executive to fix a system that leaves 11 million undocumented immigrants in legal limbo measures.
The executive actions are more fragile than a law passed by Congress, and that the next president can revoke. Rarely used to adopt reforms. Truman ended segregation in the armed forces, but racial discrimination in the southern U.S. had to wait to laws passed by Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
The Supreme Court – the third pillar, along with the White House and the Capitol, the American system of checks – last week intervened in the debate on the limits of presidential power. He did about executive orders, but another instrument of the president to impose his authority: the ability to name functions that normally require Senate approval mientrasse on vacation.
With nine votes in favor and none against, the Supreme Court ruled that Obama exceeded in 2012 when appointed senior National Labor Relations Board, which protects the rights of workers, taking advantage of a brief recess of the Senate. For Republicans, the Supreme Court is further evidence of the excessive powers of Obama. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, threatens to take him to court for abusing executive actions.
But Obama is no exception. It has signed an average of 33.58 per year executive orders, as estimated by the American Presidency Project co-directed Peters. Not since Grover Cleveland, president between 1885 and 1889, to find a president who has signed so few.
The calculations do not distinguish the importance of routine – some executive orders; others, like Truman, transform the country, nor does it include other measures such as memos and presidential proclamations, but the practices of President placed within their proper context. ” All presidents do,” says Peters. “The debate over executive powers and unilateral actions of the president is nothing new in history.”
The leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, spoke in reference to Obama, an “imperial presidency,” a term popularized by historian and adviser to John F. Kennedy Arthur Schlesinger in a book of the same title published in 1973, in the Watergate scandal.
The founding fathers of the U.S., which had freed the American colonies of the British monarchy, feared that the president had just being a new king. So they narrowed their ability to act in domestic politics with Congress and a powerful Supreme Court. At the same time, the president had a broad margin to act outside the atomic bomb and was given the power of life and death over mankind.
“The response to rampant presidency is not a president to be limited to the delivery boy,” Schlesinger wrote. ” American democracy must find the midpoint between the president turn into a tsar and make him an errand boy.”