Obama defiant: I will ‘squeeze every last little bit’ out of my next two years
He may no longer have a Congressional or even a Senate majority, but he still has a pen and a phone.
President Obama drove home the considerable executive powers he wields at a defiant press conference yesterday afternoon addressing the Republican takeover of the Senate after the 2014 midterm elections.
“I’m going to squeeze every last little bit of opportunity to help make this world a better place over these last two years. And some of that is going to be what we can do administratively,” he said.
Although he will not be able to advance left-leaning legislation through the GOP-controlled Congress, he can continue to write executive orders and use federal regulations to implement his agenda.
He told his staff after the midterms, “We have this incredible privilege of being in charge of the most important organization on earth – the U.S. government, and our military and everything that we do for good around the world. And there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Instead of backing down, Obama cited the two-thirds of voters who did not cast ballots in the midterms. “The message is clear and unambiguous. He regards neither the new Senate majority nor the increased House majority as legitimate,” a writer for RedState.com wrote.
“I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody, not just from a particular state or a particular district,” Obama said. He believed that the American people sent a message that “they want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and get stuff done.”
“You know, if you look at the history of almost every president, those last two years, all kinds of stuff happens. In some cases, stuff that we couldn’t predict,” he said.
“So, the one thing I’m pretty confident about is, I’m going to be busy for the next two years.”
President Obama felt that his policies had made America more stable and prosperous. “We just gotta keep at it,” he said.
The president had hinted that he would not be following the leads of previous presidents who suffered electoral setbacks. President George W. Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after Democrats won the 2006 elections, and President Bill Clinton agreed to Dick Morris' strategy of “triangulation” after Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994.
On election night, an unnamed Obama aide told the New York Times the president “doesn't feel repudiated” by the election results. However, Obama had told a campaign crowd shortly before the election, “I'm not on the ballot this fall. But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus felt stunned by the press conference. “In word and tone he refused to take responsibility or even express humility,” he said. “As the president said, his policies were on the ballot. The American people rejected them. Period.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest doubled down on Obama's defiant tone on MSNBC today, saying, “The president does have a pen on his desk, and I’m confident that he’ll be in a position, where he’ll have to veto some legislation where Democrats and Republicans are not able to find some common ground.”
Earnest's remarks recall President Obama's statement at his first Cabinet meeting of this year, that “We're not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward.”
President Obama first discussed the importance of an “activist” executive branch in a 2001 interview with Chicago public radio. He pledged to implement his political agenda through executive orders shortly before the 2010 blowout midterm elections.
As president, Obama has chosen to directly fund affiliates of Planned Parenthood after state legislators voted to withhold funds from the nation's largest abortion provider. His Justice Department chose not to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for turning white voters away from voting places with baseball bats and to suspend enforcement of immigration law, granting de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
The LGBT lobby has relied upon his executive powers, as he has showered federal benefits on the “spouses” of homosexual federal workers, redefined the family by executive order, treated homosexuals as though they were in the same protected classes as racial minorities, and sued school districts for refusing to allow transgender students to use the showers and locker rooms of the opposite sex.
Homosexual and transgender activists and pressure groups remain hopeful he will sign a federal executive order implementing the full terms of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), granting special rights to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people.
President Obama expressed hope the Republican leadership would pass a bill granting amnesty for illegal immigrants, which would “supplant” the executive action he plans to take shortly granting further exemptions to those who have violated federal election law.
He added he was “encouraged that this year Republicans agreed to investments that expanded early childhood education. I think we’ve got a chance to do more on that front.” The president has suggested establishing a national daycare policy.
During the press conference, Obama also focused on increased infrastructure spending to be paid for with “tax reform that closes loopholes,” and on “boosting American exports.” Republican strategists including Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have suggested that Congress give President Obama trade promotion authority – permanent fast-track authority that would bar representatives' debate or amendment of trade deals Obama negotiates, such as the unpopular Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
With such an outlook, RedState.com wrote, “There seems to be precious little chance for any substantive accomplishments over the next two years. The president has demonstrated repeatedly that he is not a partner with which negotiation, short of McConnell-esque abject surrender, is possible. He seems interested in setting up a series of fights with the GOP in order to prepare the ground for the 2016 elections.”