Strassel: Obama’s Imperial Presidency
The ObamaCare litigation is history, with the president’s takeover of the health sector deemed constitutional. Now we can focus on the rest of the Obama imperial presidency.
Where, you are wondering, have you recently heard that term? Ah, yes. The “imperial presidency” of George W. Bush was a favorite judgment of the left about our 43rd president’s conduct in war, wiretapping and detentions. Yet say this about Mr. Bush: His aggressive reading of executive authority was limited to the area where presidents are at their core power—the commander-in-chief function.
By contrast, presidents are at their weakest in the realm of domestic policy—subject to checks and balances, co-equal to the other branches. Yet this is where Mr. Obama has granted himself unprecedented power. The health law and the 2009 stimulus package were unique examples of Mr. Obama working with Congress. The more “persistent pattern,” Matthew Spalding recently wrote on the Heritage Foundation blog, is “disregard for the powers of the legislative branch in favor of administrative decision making without—and often in spite of—congressional action.”
Put another way: Mr. Obama proposes, Congress refuses, he does it anyway.
For example, Congress refused to pass Mr. Obama’s Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some not here legally. So Mr. Obama passed it himself with an executive order that directs officers to no longer deport certain illegal immigrants. This may be good or humane policy, yet there is no reading of “prosecutorial discretion” that allows for blanket immunity for entire classes of offenders.
Mr. Obama disagrees with federal law, which criminalizes the use of medical marijuana. Congress has not repealed the law. No matter. The president instructs his Justice Department not to prosecute transgressors. He disapproves of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, yet rather than get Congress to repeal it, he stops defending it in court. He dislikes provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, so he asked Congress for fixes. That effort failed, so now his Education Department issues waivers that are patently inconsistent with the statute.