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An Imperial Presidency: Examining Obama’s History of Legislating by Executive Fiat

In the coming days, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act, legislation to rein in the president’s latest effort to change federal law without congressional consent. In preparation for the upcoming vote, the House Education and the Workforce Committee compiled the following materials to highlight this and other recent examples of the president’s penchant for executive overreach:

Gutting Successful Welfare Reform Law

The move [to waive work requirements in welfare reform law] is vintage Obama, and it contains several of his administration’s most dubious hallmarks. It is legally suspect, ignoring both the letter of the law and the clear intent of Congress to specifically shield welfare reform from willy-nilly rewriting at the hands of federal bureaucrats. It reflects the administration’s taste for the selective enforcement of the laws it is sworn to uphold.
- National Review Online, “Farewell, Welfare Reform,” July 17, 2012

When President Obama recently announced plans to eviscerate the nation’s signature welfare reform law by waiving key work requirements, supporters of reform were outraged – but not entirely surprised. After all, the president has a history of choosing politics over real reforms, even going so far as to admit he’d like to “bypass Congress and change the laws on my own.”

The Washington Post called the president’s action “bad policy that isn’t going to help either the economy or Obama’s economic record.” Refusing to stand by as the president once again chooses politics over reform, Republican leaders in the House and Senate swiftly introduced the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act (H.R. 6140/ S. 3397). This important legislation will protect the successful work requirements under current law and prohibit the administration from altering or waiving the requirements in the future.

Endorsing Unconstitutional Recess Appointments to Advance a Culture of Union Favoritism

Congress, again including members of his own party, wouldn't pass [the president’s] "card-check" legislation eliminating secret ballots in union elections. So he stacked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with appointees who pushed through a "quickie" election law to accomplish much the same... In January, when the Senate refused to confirm Mr. Obama's new picks for the NLRB, he proclaimed the Senate to be in "recess" and appointed the members anyway, making a mockery of that chamber's advice-and-consent role.
- Wall Street Journal, “Obama’s Imperial Presidency,” July 5, 2012

Democrats in Washington have long sought to increase the influence of their friends in Big Labor by passing an anti-worker “card check” scheme. The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act would enhance the power of union bosses by effectively eliminating secret ballot union elections. The American public overwhelmingly opposed card check, and despite years of trying, the legislation never passed Congress.

Not taking “no” for an answer, friends of Big Labor have taken their job-destroying agenda to the National Labor Relations Board, which has been all too eager to advance union-friendly policies. Since President Obama took office, the NLRB has restricted workers' right to a secret ballot election, empowered union bosses to gerrymander the workplace, and advanced an ambush election rule that will undermine employer free speech and worker free choice.

The president’s unconstitutional recess appointments help ensure anti-worker policies continue wreaking havoc on America’s workplaces. In defense of workers and employers, the House of Representatives has taken action to hold the activist NLRB accountable. Proposals that rein in the power of the activist NLRB and restore long-standing workforce protections have received bipartisan support, and Congress stands ready to take further action to defend the rights of workers and employers.

Undermining Education Reform Efforts with a Controversial Waivers Scheme

In the heat of an election year, the Obama administration has maneuvered around Congress, using the waivers to advance its own education agenda… The waivers appear to follow an increasingly deliberate pattern by the administration to circumvent lawmakers.
- New York Times, “‘No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House,” July 6, 2012

Both the House and Senate education committees have approved legislation to reform the nation’s K-12 education system – but instead of working with Congress to complete the reauthorization process and fix a broken law, the Obama administration has largely ignored these efforts in favor of advancing a conditional waivers scheme that coerces states to adopt the president’s preferred education policies.

More than half the country is now in the process of implementing the administration’s vision for K-12 education. However, aside from the dubious legal precedent for offering ‘conditional waivers,’ the president’s waivers scheme ultimately raises more questions than it answers. States must spend significant resources altering their school systems knowing that the law – or the administration’s policies – could change at any time. As a result, the future of K-12 education in America is more uncertain than ever before.

As the Wall Street Journal aptly noted, “Mr. Obama proposes, Congress refuses, he does it anyway.” But just what has all this imperial action gotten us?

In the words of Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, “It’s hard to call someone imperial who’s failed so consistently. Or maybe not. You can surely be imperial and unsuccessful. Waterloo comes to mind.”

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