Highlighted by initiatives to strengthen the middle class, President Obama’s State of the Union Tuesday was a light slap-in-the-face to Congress, whose stalemates have been hampering Obama’s legislative agenda on jobs, wages, and the economy overall.
Obama says he plans to use executive actions and his authority over certain departments of government to put policies into place that will stimulate middle-class growth, which, for the past couple years, has been stagnant.
“The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all,” Obama said, speaking in front of guests, his cabinet, and members of Congress in the House chamber.
“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,” he added.
The problem with executive orders, though, is that they are extremely limited, compared to what legislation can accomplish. He cannot raise the federal minimum wage, make budget and tax code changes, and bestow legal status to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants living in America.
Along with that, the President’s orders can be reversed when a new executive takes office, as evidenced by when Obama reversed some of Bush’s counterterrorism policies, two days after he took office in 2009.
An executive order to raise the minimum wage for federally contracted workers to $10.10 an hour is already planned by the administration. President Obama talked about raising the federal minimum wage to that level in the speech, citing certain states and municipalities that have already raise their minimum wage to higher than the federal level.
Democrats are content with Obama’s plan, understanding his logic behind bypassing Congressional approval where he can.
“This is not a panacea, this is not the fix we are looking for,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said according to the New York Times. “But he is leading by example, sending a message to Congress that we need to raise the minimum wage for all Americans.”
Republicans, on the other hand, are using Obama’s rhetoric to say that he is overstepping his powers granted to him by the Constitution.
“Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, which was posted two hours before the speech began.
Overall, Obama’s willingness to circumvent legislative processes is a step in the right direction to promoting the economic growth this country definitely needs. Hopefully Congress will end its intransigence to promote policies that can only be accomplished by legislation.