Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Executive's Order, Speaker's Chaos

I had about five other things I wanted to write about - after long weeks of having little to discuss that could be resolved in a simple, "what the hell?" retort - but I spotted this halfway through the day and felt compelled to lead off with this.

Speaker John Boehner is seriously reviewing his options on pursuing a lawsuit against Barack Obama's use of Executive Orders.  To wit (via the Washington Post):
Reports today indicate that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is planning a lawsuit over Barack Obama's use of executive orders. These orders have long been a focal point of right-wing anger, particularly since January of this year when Obama announced he'd be using more of them to bypass a gridlocked and dysfunctional Congress.

After the immediate round of laughing my ass off, I had to consider the actual seriousness of what Boehner's hoping to accomplish.

With regards to EOs (abbrev. Executive Order, natch), there has been a long history of Presidents issuing such things ever since the first one under the Constitution, George Washington himself.  The argument for them stems from the interpretation of Article II, Section 1 Clause 1 that grants Presidents the power to "faithfully execute the laws": in order to execute - or perform duties - under such laws the President has to establish the who, how, where and when those laws have to be enforced (the "why" of the laws fall under judicial review set by the Supreme Court).  The only noticeable time Executive Orders were even considered by SCOTUS, it was when they overturned an EO issued by Truman because it "attempted to make law" rather than enforce one.

Ever since that, Presidents made the effort to relate their EOs to congressional laws.  Legal scholars, however, still consider Executive Orders in a kind of gray zone where their actual constitutionality might or might not exist.  It's in the gray zone that Boehner wants to attack Obama's efforts to use EOs this year to work around GOP Congressional obstruction.

Thing is, Boehner's case is weak to begin with.  Obama's case history of issuing EOs demonstrate he's not the great offender Boehner and the Far Right make him out to be:

That Post chart tells the facts: compared to modern Presidents, Obama's issued the fewest EOs in decades.  For the most part of the 19th Century, you'll note the lack of executive activity... up until Teddy Roosevelt, that bundle of energy who defined the modern Presidency with his progressive activism.  It calmed down by the time of Eisenhower, and even then the EO average hadn't been reached since the days of Jimmy Carter.

And while the modern conservative wingnut faction of the GOP are screaming about Obama's "overreach", his 175 (as of March 2014) EO count in six years comes nowhere near sainted Ronald Reagan's 381 total (Obama would have to double his EO count in the next two years to even come close).

Despite what Boehner claims, this whole thing smells of setting up for cause to impeach.  They couldn't impeach over the birth certificate, they couldn't impeach over Solyndra, they couldn't impeach over ObamaCare, and the Far Right are finding out they don't have much to impeach with over Benghazi, the IRS SuperPAC investigation, Benghazi, the prisoner exchange for the sole POW we had in Afghanistan, Benghazi, Obama's method of shoelace tying, and BENGHAZI.

So they're going after Executive Orders.  The plan looks to be simple:
1) Get the courts to establish that Executive Orders in general are not allowed under the Constitution: that it's executive law-making, conflicting with the Legislative power to make laws.
2) Argue that considering Obama used EOs throughout his tenure, he was committing impeachable acts all along.

Which brings up the unpleasant reality that EVERY President - save William Henry Harrison (I died in 30 days!) - would have to be retroactively impeached.  Not to mention the fact that any future President coming out of the Republican ranks (if that ever happens again, considering how f-cked the party's becoming at the national level) is suddenly going to have no executive power of his/her own to wield if Boehner and the Far Right succeed at this.

This obsession with stopping Obama at all costs is both ridiculous and dangerous.  Ridiculous in that the GOP's efforts are going against decades if not centuries of effective government traditions.  Dangerous in that if any of these efforts succeed we could see the end of the system of checks and balances that made our federal republic work all those centuries.

The courts already established clear limits on EOs: banning them outright can restrict a President's ability to enact any law not without instructions spelled out by Congress to the letter.  And considering how some laws may conflict with others, it'd end up to the courts clearing that chaos which could take years to resolve, which a smartly-worded EO would otherwise straighten out.  We've been doing this for decades, as history shows us: even during the questionable periods of civil war and world wars, overall this system worked.

Now, just to deny Obama anything, Boehner and his congressional allies want to wipe that all out.

"This is about faithfully executing the laws of our country," says Boehner.

Problem with that, Mr. Boehner, when you were asked which laws weren't being executed, you couldn't provide a single example.

If you were serious about this, Mr. Boehner, you'd have a violation on hand, you'd have an excuse, before coming to the cameras to make your threat known.

The Speaker of the House is inviting chaos into our system of checks and balances.  This is what we've come to.

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