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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Upset about Obama’s executive orders? Blame dithering Congress

The 113th Congress is nicknamed “The Do-nothing Congress.” It’s not really difficult to see why. It’s also pretty easy to see why, according to a 2013 Pew Research Survey, seven out of every 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the performance of our currently serving Congress. In truth, “dissatisfied” is a generously mild, polite way of putting it.

Civilian voters are apparently not the only ones tired of watching members of Congress bicker and fight their way to record-high levels of inefficiency: President Barack Obama has passed 194 executive orders (including his recently announced immigration plan) during his presidency, and going by the scarcely believable level of activity emanating from Congress, we can expect many more.  

The political, overly partisan gridlock that has plagued Washington for years now shows absolutely no signs of abating soon, and I, like the President,  am tired of it. The 113th Congress ended 2013 with the ignoble record of being the least productive Congress in the recent history of the nation.

Barring some sort of miracle, 2014 will end no better than 2013 for Congress. According to another 2013 study conducted by Pew Research Center’s “Fact Tank,” the 113th has passed the least substantive measures (non-ceremonial laws) of all Congresses — over equivalent time spans — in the past two decades with a paltry 124 since January 2013. Simply put, the cast of Jersey Shore would be a more productive Congress than the 113th.

Yet, it’s practically impossible to turn on the news without having to endure Conservatives’ grumblings about Obama and his “unconstitutional” executive orders. The high pitched whinging that the right wing has become so adept at after numerous years of extensive training usually contains the words and phrases “Obama,” “dictator,” “unconstitutional,” and “Hawaii.”

Mitch McConell, the newly minted Republican Majority House Leader, has unequivocally stated that Congress will respond with legislation if Obama goes through with his plan for immigration. At least they’ll finally be doing something. Speaker of the House John Boehner has threatened and failed to sue the president more times than Charlie Brown tried and failed to kick that damn football. Politicians and political pundits alike have been chiming in with their opinions about how unconstitutional or constitutional executive orders are; the debate’s been raging on in the media for months now.

The fact that there’s even a debate about this is frankly ridiculous. Executive orders are legal within the framework of the constitution and, as surprising as this may sound, President Obama is not the first to use them. And he won’t be the last. Bill Clinton’s aide once said of executive orders, “Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land; kinda cool”; they are definitely cool. Cool, but not unconstitutional.

Executive orders, according to the White House, are legally binding orders given by the President, in his role as the leader of the Executive Branch, to Federal Administrative Agencies. And every president uses them. In fact, according to statistics available on the White House website, on average, President Obama has signed the fourth fewest executive orders per year since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. With an average of 38 executive orders signed yearly, Obama signs executive orders with roughly the same frequency as Republican darling George Bush did during his presidency (with a much more active Congress).

After his latest executive order — concerning immigration — becomes law, the bleats from the right will rise to unconscionable decibels to decry it as illegal and unconstitutional. Fortunately for  believers in the notion that children should not be made to pay for the actions of their parents, it isn’t.

Clinton’s aide was right, they are kinda cool.