Obama’s Executive Order Plans: Autocratic, Weak, or Necessary?

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“America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” said President Barack Obama early in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. In essence, that was a pledge to employ his executive powers and skirt the legislative process in order to bring economic opportunities to the middle class, a phrase that has become a tagline for the president’s second term. His words were meant to restore the American public’s confidence in his presidency after a year filled with setbacks from a political agenda that Congress has largely refused to support. But rather than addressing the polarization of Washington, he vowed to find a way around the problem.

Of course, such a pronouncement immediately sent shockwaves through the American political landscape. Obama’s critics in the Republican party saw his commitment to use his presidential powers to further his political agenda as an overstep. “Choosing to circumvent our legislative process and govern through executive power not only violates our constitutional system of checks and balances, but it poses a direct threat to our liberty,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a statement released by the Republican Attorneys General Association.

But, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that “any president who doesn’t take advantage of the unique powers of the presidency to move the country forward would be depriving himself or herself of the capacity to move it more forward and to grow the economy further and to create more jobs.” He also asserted that Obama would have pursued this strategy even if Democrats controlled the Congress.

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