Liberal Couple: Obama Moves No Solution to Congressional Dysfunction

Image: Liberal Couple: Obama Moves No Solution to Congressional Dysfunction

Monday, 09 Dec 2013 12:25 PM

By Elliot Jager

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Liberals need to beware of unchecked presidential power because Democrats will not always hold the White House. The way to address congressional gridlock is not for President Barack Obama to run the country by himself, write political scientist Jacob Hacker and law professor Oona Hathaway.

Hacker, a fellow at the liberal-leaning think tank New America Foundation, is married to his co-author, Hathaway. They take Obama to task in the Los Angeles Times for declaring new gun control measures, instituting limited immigration reform and modifying the Affordable Care Act — without congressional involvement.

What happened to liberal concerns about presidential overreach? they ask.

Liberals attacked president George W. Bush for, among other things, unilaterally tightening restrictions on the use of stem cells in research supported by federal funds. "But the last five years have shown that many on the left are willing to turn a blind eye to unchecked executive action when a Democrat is in the White House," the couple writes.

The authors are sympathetic to Obama's predicament. The president has taken the unilateral path "because it's the only way he can get anything done."

However, the "Democratic embrace of unilateralism feeds the cycle of dysfunction," they say.

The authors' recipe for a better-operating Congress includes banning filibusters altogether. "The filibuster is not part of our nation's constitutional design. To the contrary, pointing to Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 22, they argue that "the framers rejected supermajority requirements except in limited circumstances."

Second, they advocate running the federal government on the previous year's budget when Congress can't agree on a new one.

Lastly, they call for "transparency to lobbying and campaign donations" to weaken the power of "wealthy interest groups and intense party activists."

Hacker and Hathaway conclude with the hope that consensus on the principle that the president should not be governing the country alone can serve as a springboard for bipartisan filibuster reform.

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