Obama Prepares Executive Actions Behind Closed Doors

Image: Obama Prepares Executive Actions Behind Closed Doors (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 06:38 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Circumventing the stalled legislative process, the White House is moving assertively and in private to fashion government policies by executive order on issues ranging from immigration to tax law, The New York Times reported.

The administration has partially replicated the legislative process by holding "listening sessions" instead of open congressional hearings and inviting lobbyists, interest groups, and experts to present their cases out of the public limelight, according to the newspaper.

"The president has been clear that he will use all of the tools at his disposal, working with Congress where they are willing but also taking action on his own where they aren't," White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman told the Times. "As part of this process, the administration has engaged a wide range of stakeholders and has solicited input from groups and individuals representing a diverse set of views."

In June, President Barack Obama pledged to "fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own."

The executive branch is not set up to conduct its own legislative process, according to Bowdoin College professor Andrew Rudalevige. He told the newspaper that the White House is likely to seek out the views of those it already agrees with. Critics say running the government this way is liable to benefit Obama's allies while leaving opponents with little recourse but to sue, according to the Times.

"It is chilling to consider now that these groups, frustrated in their aims by our constitutional system of government, are plotting with the Obama administration to collect their spoils through executive fiat," Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said, according to the Times.

Obama's use of executive actions has encouraged interest groups to push their agendas at the White House. The president's approach has led technology companies to lobby the White House for more visas for foreign workers. The Wall Street Journal reported that the president could decide to effectively double the number of green cards available.

Other interest groups are pressing for limits on the tax benefits companies that move overseas can enjoy. And one lawmaker, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has appealed to Obama to ban the importation of assault weapons by executive order, the Times reported.

Interest groups are pushing the White House to expand the president's 2012 executive order authorizing children brought into the United States illegally by their parents to stay so that it covers millions of other undocumented immigrants, the Times said.

The American Farm Bureau is urging the administration to ease enforcement against tracking down illegal farmworkers needed by the industry. And building contractors are pressing for illegal migrants to be given work permits so that they can work unhindered, the Journal reported.

Some groups have arranged for policy experts to write articles that provide the White House with legal justification to act by executive degree. For example, professor Stephen Shay of Harvard Law School made the case for removing tax incentives now benefiting companies that move overseas, according to the Times.

Obama has issued 183 executive orders — not as many as predecessors George W. Bush or Bill Clinton — though he has used memorandums and other administrative tools to pursue presidential unilateralism. In July, the president issued a broad executive order that bans discrimination by federal contractors against gays, according to the Times.

Presidential scholar John Woolley described Obama as "aggressive" in using "a vast array" of measures to take "matters into his own hands," according to the Times.

The president is expected to unveil a series of executive orders now in the works after Labor Day, the Journal reported.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that the White House is refusing to disclose advance information about what might be in the forthcoming immigration executive order.

The White House failed to present its own draft immigration bill to Congress earlier this summer. Lawmakers had been grappling with the issue of money the president said he needed to address the immediate border crisis as well as comprehensive reform of immigration law.

"And however dysfunctional Congress has become, can a president turn to executive orders when he never submitted a bill?" Politico's David Rogers wrote.

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