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Obama's Presidency Isn't Over Yet

Christian Patterson |
November 25, 2013 | 10:59 a.m. PST

Deputy Opinion Editor

Obama can still get a lot done before 2016. (Wikimedia Commons, White House)
Obama can still get a lot done before 2016. (Wikimedia Commons, White House)
President Obama’s legislative agenda may not be dead, but it definitely has one foot in the grave.

With House Speaker Boehner’s announcement that he will not take up the Senate immigration bill or proceed to Conference Committee, the mistake ridden rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and the need to change filibuster rules just to fill routine judicial vacancies, it is obvious that the President won’t be able to push much more through this Congress any time soon.

It’s a shame too. A year that started with a heralded win on Bush tax cuts, and mandates for reforms of our nation’s immigration system and gun laws, will end with the President seemingly out of political capital and with very little to show for it.

All is not lost however. While Congressional Republicans may have asked Santa to put coal in the President’s legislative stocking this holiday season (and every other one for that matter), Obama still has one fact that falls in his favor. He is still the President of the United States.

This fact may seem incredibly obvious, but what is not obvious are the perks of the job that have nothing to do with appealing to the better angels of Tea Partiers. The Constitution endows the Executive with several explicit powers with which to make policy. And a couple centuries of strong executives have given the President a few more implied ones.

Obama is no stranger to executive rulemaking. His actions to protect young undocumented immigrants, lower the risk of catastrophic climate change and reshape our nation’s education system make that evident. Still, he could do a great deal more.

The President could end discrimination based on sexual orientation for companies that do business with the federal government. He could also help combat stagnating wages for the middle class by favoring companies that pay livable salaries to their workers when determining federal contracts.

Now that Senate Republicans have forfeited their rights to give input on which judges can be appointed to sub-Supreme Court level courts, he can also fill the vacancies that have hamstrung the federal judiciary for years.

The list of items the President can move on without confronting the hydra of GOP reasons for opposition is actually quite long. These orders could obviously be rolled back by the next Republican administration. But good luck to the president who wants to deal with headlines about  taking away livable wages, stripping married couples of their benefits and deporting thousands of hard working young people.

If I were President Obama, this winter, I would curl up by the fire, review a few briefs on what actions can legally be taken by the executive, and get started on moving towards a more perfect union, one pen stroke at a time.


Reach Deputy Opinion Editor Christian Patterson here; follow him here.



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