Quotes of the day

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer on Sunday promised unilateral action from President Obama to enact his agenda in 2014.

“We need to assure to the American people that we can get something done, either through Congress or on our own because what they want are answers,” Pfeiffer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”…

Obama has trumpeted 2014 as a “year of action” and in his State of the Union address he’s expected to outline how he’ll use executive action to move his agenda.

Pfeiffer promised on “Fox News Sunday” that “if Congress doesn’t act, the president will.”


[F]or the first time, following what many allies view as a lost year, the White House is reorganizing itself to support a more executive-focused presidency and inviting the rest of the government to help…

Senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer outlined the lessons learned in a three-page memo that Obama discussed with his Cabinet in recent weeks, according to several administration officials who have read the document.

Among its conclusions is that Obama, a former state legislator and U.S. senator, too often governed more like a prime minister than a president. In a parliamentary system, a prime minister is elected by lawmakers and thus beholden to them in ways a president is not.

As a result, Washington veterans have been brought into the West Wing to emphasize an executive style of governing that aims to sidestep Congress more often. A central ambition of Obama’s presidency — to change the way Washington works — has effectively been discarded as a distraction in a time of hardening partisanship.


KARL: A make or break moment for a White House struggling.

Just look at this stunner from the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 37 percent of the public think the president has the ability to make the right decisions for the country.

How can the president lead when barely a third trust his ability to make the right decisions?

CARNEY: Jon, I think what we saw last year in 2013 was a Washington that did not deliver for the American people. And the president sees this as a year of action to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary, to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class.


Just do it, Mr. President.

If Congress won’t raise the federal minimum wage, you can. At least for people who work for companies that get federal contracts, subcontracts and grants.

So says a group of liberals in the House and Senate who want President Obama to sign an executive order requiring federal agencies to give preference in awarding contracts to companies that pay workers no less than $10.10 an hour…

“If the [minimum wage] bill languishes in the House, there’s a good chance Obama will use executive authority to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors,” said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist of the Potomac Research Group. Republicans would object, he argues, and “simply draw more attention to their refusal to raise the minimum wage.”


Obama could advance core measures in the battle against climate change with or without Congress, according to a report released Tuesday and spearheaded by former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

Ritter met with the administration last week to discuss the 207-page report, which includes roughly 200 recommendations on how Obama can utilize his executive authority to push clean energy standards that are in line with the his climate plan.

Obama’s former climate czar Heather Zichal, who left her post early this year, also helped craft the report. Zichal said during her time as the president’s climate adviser, the administration would continually attempt to reach out to Congress on clean energy standards but received little back…

“Whether it’s 129, 200 or 72, the number of executive actions is going to be robust, Zichal said Tuesday.


VAN SUSTEREN: I’m very well. Do you agree with Speaker Boehner that the president is essentially overstepping the Constitution? Because, Speaker Boehner says that the president also Constitution and oath of office he took when he swore to faithfully execute the laws of this country. Is that your thought about the president or is the Speaker wrong?

GOWDY: There are several instances that buttress Speaker Boehner’s position, including the Supreme Court. He is going to lose on the HHS mandate. He is going to lose on recess appointments. He lost nine to zip in religious liberty case. Greta, he says he has a phone and a pen. I would tell him to be careful using the phone this day and age. You never know who is going to be listening in on the conversation. But he has had a phone and a pen for five years. And we have an anemic economy, a feckless foreign policy, and people are losing hope. So rather than accept responsibility, he wants to blame Congress. That’s what he means by this, is I’m going to blame Congress. Their recalcitrant, they won’t work with me. He has had half a decade and here we sit.


But small ball may be the best game for the administration to play. Every time it has gone larger, it has courted controversy, as when the president unilaterally decided to stop enforcing deportation mandates for certain children of illegal immigrants, to allow them to stay in the country, or the industry furor caused by the Environmental Protection Agency’s new restraints on coal-fired power plans.

And that’s another reason executive actions are risky: Many lead to litigation. Those EPA rules will likely be tied up in federal court, perhaps for years. Just last week, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board—an executive action that very well could be reversed, to the administration’s embarrassment. In the very same week, a federal Appeals Court invalidated Obama-era Federal Communications Commission rules that required Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally…

Remember, this is an administration that insisted it did not have the power to raise the debt ceiling by itself, that asked Congress to ratify its decision to strike Syria, that is now seeking its help to untangle counterterrorism surveillance policy, and that has dragged out its executive discretion so long on approving the Keystone XL pipeline that some Republicans are trying to pass bills to force it to act.

Yes, the president has a pen, and it’s a nice one. But there remains the question of how much ink there’s really left in it.


Over the years, instead of jealously guarding its constitutional right to legislative powers, Congress has delegated much of its authority to the executive branch, either by explicitly granting rulemaking authority to federal bureaucrats or by passing poorly constructed legislation that is open to broad interpretation. The 2,700-page Affordable Care Act, which delegates most of the regulatory and rule-making responsibility for the law to the secretary of Health and Human Services and is unclear on issues such as mandatory contraception coverage, is just such a monstrosity. Congress essentially outsourced its legislative authority for more than 20 percent of our economy to the president and legions of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. Barring a complete repeal, which would require a veto-proof majority with this president, Congress will not get that authority back.

While congressional Republicans might argue that they had no hand in passing Obamacare, they have certainly participated in sweeping grants of legislative power to the executive branch over the years. The Patriot Act and TARP are both catastrophic examples of their complicity in the erosion of congressional power.

If congressional leaders are intent upon reining in the executive branch, they must start by drafting, reading, debating and thoroughly vetting every piece of legislation before they vote on it. Over time, equipped with clearly worded, tightly focused bills, Congress can, slowly but surely, reassert its legislative authority. It must make a concerted effort to do so. Our form of government depends on effective checks and balances.


“It sounds vaguely like a threat and has a certain amount of arrogance,” said Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who draws support from the small-government Tea Party faction, in an interview on the CNN program.

Paul said Obama’s complaints about congressional gridlock were misplaced. “Well, welcome to the real world. It’s hard to get legislation passed,” he said.



Out of all of the dismaying acts of the Obama presidency, perhaps the most dangerous is this consistent pattern of lawlessness. We have never had a president who over and over again, openly, aggressively defies the law. If he doesn’t like the law he refuses to enforce it. Or he simply proclaims it changed. And this is something that ought to bother everyone. This is something that shouldn’t be a partisan issue. On area after area, from immigration law onto drug law to welfare law, he decided he didn’t like the law so he proclaimed it changed. That’s not the way our legal system works.

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