Skip to main content

Dear Speaker Boehner: Do your job instead

By Sally Kohn
updated 2:14 PM EDT, Sun July 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Obama has issued fewer executive orders than G.W. Bush or Reagan
  • John Boehner's actions smack of irrational partisanship, she says
  • She notes that under Obama, the economy and jobs are better than after Bush free fall
  • Kohn: Boehner's political stunt wastes taxpayer money

Editor's note: Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Dear Speaker Boehner,

President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291.

President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders -- yet the GOP accuses him of being an "imperial president," and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it's as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality.

Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything.

And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution?

Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: "After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, 'where are the jobs?' "

This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week's jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama's leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.

Don't think that recovery is fast enough, Speaker Boehner? Then pass laws to help rather than jeering from the sidelines and rooting for America to fail so you can blame it on President Obama.

You assert that you have passed jobs bills that President Obama and the Democratic Senate are ignoring, but frankly the word "jobs" as you use it there is questionable. Your "jobs" bills include legislation to repeal Obamacare, through which 20 million Americans now have health insurance, cut food stamps for poor Americans and reduce government regulations on fracking.

Meanwhile, President Obama proposed an actual jobs bill that would have created construction jobs to modernize our deteriorating roads and airports, provided tax credits for employers that hired returning veterans, extended unemployment benefits, which also spurs spending, and cut payroll taxes for 98% of American businesses. But that jobs bill was killed by Republican opposition in Congress.

You also accuse President Obama of ignoring the law, of acting like "a monarch or king." Yet the same article of the Constitution that vests power and authority in Congress vests executive power in the President. Since the founding of our country, that power has been interpreted to allow presidents to enact executive orders and determine how the duly passed laws of Congress should be prioritized and deployed.

Obama is (not) the worst president ever
John Boehner: I'm suing President Obama
Boehner: Why we must sue the President

If you're looking for an example of stretching that authority to the point of breaking it, perhaps you shouldn't scrutinize a former Constitutional law professor but instead his predecessors. "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority," Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2005. "The president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired."

Cheney, for instance, described the War Powers Act -- in which a president must gain the approval of Congress before launching armed conflict -- as an unconstitutional "infringement on the authority of the presidency." In both number and scope, President Obama's use of executive actions simply pales against this and other actions one could compare.

Franklin Roosevelt, the last president faced with a massive economic recession, ultimately enacted 3,522 executive orders. Even though his own party controlled both houses of Congress, FDR wasn't sued. He was elected to a third term. And his policies, including his executive orders, helped rescue America from the recession.

In the face of obstructionist Republicans in Congress, President Obama's executive actions also enjoy broad public support.

Some 57% of Americans supported his administrative relief for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States when they were children. And according to a poll conducted by the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, 73% of Americans support an executive order to ban discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

If House Republicans don't like these executive orders, then pass immigration reform and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Don't sue the President. Passing laws that our nation wants and needs is doing your job. Suing the President just because you don't like him is irresponsible partisan petulance.

Speaker Boehner, you write: "If you look back over American history, there has always been a tension between the inherent powers of the executive branch versus the inherent powers of the legislative branch."

Yes, that's true, and President Obama is simply exercising those inherent executive powers. Now please exercise yours and pass some laws to help America instead of wasting taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit that is nothing more than a flagrant partisan stunt.

Boehner: Why we must now sue the President

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016.
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT