“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
That’s from Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1787-88. It requires that the president give an annual update to Congress to offer remarks on how the nation is doing.
The purpose of the address is to remind us of the president’s accomplishments of the past year and to let us know what he hopes to achieve in the coming year. It also may serve as encouragement to Congress to pass certain laws or approve certain appointees (or, as in this year’s address, to let Congress know you are planning to get stuff done with or without them).
This time around, Obama promised us a “year of action”, and he’s not going to let Congress get in his way:
“I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Remember, two weeks ago Obama threatened us from his “bully pulpit” with his “pen and his phone”:
“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”
The day before Obama’s SOTU speech, Jay Carney issued a foreboding warning:
“You can be sure that the president fully intends to use his executive authority to use the unique powers of the office to make progress on economic opportunity.”
To date, Obama has signed 168 executive orders, which isn’t an alarming number. But as Peter Baker of The New York Times points out, it isn’t the number of orders that matters:
The numbers matter less than the scope of the ones that are signed. Mr. Obama has unilaterally deferred deportation of younger illegal immigrants, delayed enforcement of his health care law and declined to defend legal challenges against the Defense of Marriage Act, a law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Obama also unilaterally decided to boost environmental regulations and reform for No Child Left Behind.
What else does he plan to use his pen and phone to accomplish? Is he merely threatening Congress with his combative rhetoric, or does he actually plan to turn to executive powers to push through his progressive agenda?
If Republicans keep control of the House and manage to take control of the Senate this year, it seems likely that more executive orders are coming. Here’s what Jay Carney had to say about it:
“Any president who doesn’t take advantage of the unique powers of the presidency to move the country forward would be depriving himself or herself of the capacity to move it more forward and to grow the economy further and to create more jobs.”
Here’s Obama’s Executive Orders Wish List (so far, that we know of), as reported by CBS News:
Minimum wage: Obama announced the morning of the State of the Union that he was increasing the minimum wage for federal contractor workers to $10.10 per hour. Addressing rising inequality and limited social mobility was a major theme of the president’s speech, but raising the minimum wage for the majority of Americans is one area where he has few options on his own.
Retirement savings: Through executive actions, Mr. Obama plans to push the idea of “myRA” accounts for millions of Americans – a new starter retirement savings account that will allow people to begin saving money through their employers through an account like a Roth IRA or savings bonds backed by the U.S. government. The president will hold an event in West Mifflin, Pa., Wednesday where he will sign a presidential memorandum directing the Treasury Department to create the savings account.
Family policies: President Obama has plans to host a summit on working families to highlight policies that can help families, showcasing companies who have excelled in that arena and recommend laws and policies that advance the administration’s goals on flexibility, paid leave and reducing discrimination.
Job training: Mr. Obama is directing vice president Biden to conduct a review of the federal job-training system.
Unemployment: Later this week the administration will convene a group of CEOs and other leaders to talk about the best ways to incorporate unemployed Americans back into the workforce. President Obama has asked CEOs to do a better job of making sure they are considered for open positions.
Environment: Mr. Obama has pledged to streamline permitting and cut red tape to encourage the construction of factories that rely on natural gas.
Universal pre-K: On this perennial goal, the president can do little more than bring together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders and philanthropists who want to make commitments to expand early childhood education.
Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address came two months after Sandy Hook, and the president exploited the tragedy to push for stricter gun control policy during his speech. His pleas fell on deaf Congressional ears. This year, he didn’t say much about gun control, but he hinted at using his pen and phone to make changes:
“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say ‘we are not afraid,’ and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.”
Earlier this month, Obama signed a measure to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, with a focus on mental health:
One proposed rule change aims to clarify terminology used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm for mental health reasons. The administration says states have complained that some wording is ambiguous, making it difficult to determine who should be blocked from buying a weapon.
A second proposed rule change would allow entities covered by patient privacy provisions to submit additional information to the background check system. However, the administration says the rule change would not require reporting on general mental health care or legally prohibit someone from having a firearm solely for seeking treatment.
It seems like Obama is determined to go it alone to push through as many elements of his progressive agenda as possible. The majority of Americans won’t like it: according to a recent Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll, 55 percent of Americans disapproved of presidents “taking executive action when Congress is gridlocked.”
But since when does Obama care about what we, the people, want?
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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”