In January, sensing that his term of office was rapidly coming to an end with little to brag about, Obama put Congress on notice that he would use his executive powers to get things done. Within minutes after the State of the Union Address ended, a group of conservative members of Congress attacked him, claiming that he was becoming a “dictator.” Within a day, the conservative talk show hosts, who read from the same script, were screaming about a “socialist” takeover of the White House.
You may be a big fan of the president or dislike him intensely, but he’s still the president. When Ronald Reagan signed 381 executive orders restructuring the government, no one made a peep. That also goes for Bill Clinton (364), George W. Bush (291) and Dwight Eisenhower (484). For the record, Obama has used his pen to sign orders 172 times.
McConnell may only be the leader of the minority in the Senate, but he has the votes to stop almost any legislation from being approved. Under some crazy rule, the majority needs 60 votes to pass certain legislation, and without the support of a few moderate Republicans, nothing happens.
By my calculation, there are eight months to go before this Congress winds up its work. Among the pending priorities are raising the minimum wage, some type of immigration reform and the problems with extending unemployment insurance. There are plenty of others I didn’t mention.
I really feel bad for hardworking members of Congress like Reps. Peter King, Steve Israel, Tom Bishop, Carolyn McCarthy and many others. Going back and forth to Washington each week is tiring and stressful. If something important were happening, it would at least make the trip a little more gratifying.
But just like the characters in “Groundhog Day,” thanks to the Mitch McConnells of this world, we are doomed to watch the ritual of a Congress voting for bills that don’t pass both houses and trying to repeal Obamacare every waking moment of the day. There must be a better system, but absent one, Obama should keep signing those executive orders, so that at least something gets done on the taxpayers’ dime.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. His column will alternate with Scott Brinton’s and Tom Suozzi’s. Comments? JKremer@liherald.com.