“Gridlock Is Good”

August 8th, 2014

In Slate, Reihan Salam explains “When House Republicans stand in the way of President Obama, it means they’re taking their constitutional duties seriously.” Reihan discusses my article Congressional Intransigence and Executive Action to place the President’s “domestic Caesarism” in action.

With Republicans in control of the House, President Obama has found it all but impossible to move his domestic agenda forward through legislative means. And so, according to his conservative critics, he has stretched his powers to the limit via a series of executive actions. Josh Blackman of the South Texas College of Law has accused the president of using congressional intransigence as an excuse to “suspend, waive, and even rewrite statutes.” In 2012, for example, the president announced a sweeping deferred action for millions of unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children. These women and men would be shielded from the threat of deportation, and they’d be allowed to apply for employment authorization. More recently, the Obama administration has reportedly considered extending this treatment to millions of other unauthorized immigrants whose relatives are U.S. citizens. Ross Douthat of the New York Timeswarned that by flouting Congress on immigration enforcement, the president is inching ever closer to “domestic Caesarism.”

Reihan also discusses the opposing views of Eric Posner

To be sure, the president has his defenders. One of them, Slate contributor Eric Posner of the University of Chicago Law School, maintains that it is Congress, not the president, that is undermining constitutional norms. “If Congress cannot pass any laws because of gridlock,” Posner writes in the New Republic, “then it has violated its obligations under the Constitution, and accordingly the president has the right to use his enforcement powers to implement policies that serve the public interest.” It is Posner’s view that appears to come closest to the president’s: If House Republicans are standing in his way, he’s left with little choice but to take action.

I will be posting a revised version of my article sometime next week, and will soon send it out to the law reviews. Stay tuned.