Sen. Mike Lee charged that President Barack Obama had used executive orders to change laws for political benefits, and called the practice for that purpose "unprecedented."
"What this president has done is unprecedented. What this president has done is to repeatedly change laws, even laws that he himself has pushed through Congress, for his own political benefit, under circumstances that he deems difficult, where he considers it inconvenient to go through Congress," Lee told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" on Thursday.
"That's wrong. It's unconstitutional," the Utah Republican added.
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In Tuesday's State of the Union speech, Obama promised to "take steps without legislation to expand opportunity" by the use of executive order. He warned he would use the measure "wherever and whenever I can."
Lee explained Obama's use of executive orders had the effect of "undoing existing statute, undoing existing law." He said the president had acted without explaining his justification, and maintained the president was not a "law unto himself."
"If he wants to change the law, he has to go through Congress to do that. When he fails to do that, he owes us an explanation," Lee, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said.
To date, Obama has issued fewer executive orders than his most recent predecessors. President George W. Bush issued 291 executive orders, while President Bill Clinton issued 364, according to Fox News.
Lee said the fact other presidents had done it "doesn't justify it," but conceded there were "instances in which the law authorizes the president to act by executive order."
Lee argued the president's use of executive order harmed the relationship between the White House and lawmakers, as well as with Americans.
"Each time a president does this, he undermines his own negotiating power with Congress. He undermines his own support among the American people, as they see that he's diminishing their rights and their prerogatives, as citizens, to live under a constitutionally limited government," he said.
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