Limiting Executive Overreach Through The Senate’s Power of the Purse

August 21st, 2014

One of the arguments offered in favor of the House’s lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s executive overreach, is that it is without any political means to stop the President. I think this argument has some salience with respect to the President’s willingness to selectively decline to enforce the law, but the Republican’s proposed strategy, if the GOP takes the Senate, offers an alternate approach:

“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”

In a lengthy interview with Politico, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that the Senate will attach riders to spending bills to cabin the Executive’s activities. For example, limiting regulations that the EPA can promulgate:

A “good example,” McConnell said, is adding restrictions to regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. Adding riders to spending bills would change the “behavior of the bureaucracy, which I think has been the single biggest reason this recovery has been so tepid,” he said.

“He could,” McConnell said calmly when asked if such a tactic would prompt Obama to veto must-pass appropriations bills. “Yeah, he could.”

It’s unclear if McConnell could pass bigger limitations–such as restricting the President’s ability to rewrite Obamacare. The Congress could even pass a law that would *force* the President to implement the employer’s mandate, which is the gravaman of the House lawsuit.

Such an approach casts some doubt on the House’s litigation arguments.

This hardball would force the President to veto the bill, which may result in a shutdown.

But asked about the potential that his approach could spark another shutdown, McConnell said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.

Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process,” McConnell said. “He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.”

This would be a politically risky move, but a political move nonetheless. Of course, even if the President signs the law, he can just issue a signing statement, saying he won’t follow that part of the law.

McConnell pours a bucket of cold water on ay thoughts of repealing Obamacare through the reconciliation process, something that he considered in 2012.

“That’s how we got Obamacare; we’ll see if we can undo any of it that way,” Paul said in an interview. “It makes more sense to try to do it with 60, but I think you do what you have to do.”

But McConnell was coy on whether he’d pursue this tactic. And even if he tried to gut Obamacare, he knows full well he’d lack the support to override a presidential veto.

“We’ll see,” McConnell said when asked about reconciliation.

Stay tuned.