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 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT