In a combative speech Friday morning, President Obama made clear that a rebuke from the Supreme Court this week was not going to stop him from trying to work around a gridlocked Congress as he tries to implement his agenda.
He even took a moment to indirectly mock House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who this week threatened to sue Obama over his use of executive orders to enact policy changes.
The remarks on Friday were especially significant, coming as they did just a day after the Supreme Court ruled that Obama had violated the Constitution by appointing members to the National Labor Relations Board during a three-day congressional recess. In his remarks, the president made clear he is not only unrepentant about his use of executive orders – he’s prepared to keep moving in the same direction.
“I’m not going to let gridlock, and inaction, and willful indifference, and greed, threaten the hard work of families like yours,” the president told a supportive crowd on the shore of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. “We can’t afford to wait for Congress right now. That’s why I’m going ahead and moving without them wherever I can.”
Rattling off a series of executive orders, including an increase in the minimum wage for federal contractors, a cap on student loan payments, and more, he contrasted the White House’s action with the relative inaction of the legislative branch.
“Now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions. They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something,” Obama said. “I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find the most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.”
He drew laughter from the crowd with his next line: “I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do. But I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.”
Of course, the Republicans would argue that they are not looking to sue Obama for “doing his job,” but rather for going beyond his executive authority and cutting Congress out of its rightful role on oversight and policymaking.
The president’s argument that Congress has essentially abdicated its role in the creation of public policy is a compelling one, at least when he’s giving a speech. But as the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, it’s a stretch to claim that Congress’s failure to act effectively grants the executive additional powers.
Boehner’s threat to drag the president into court has some serious hurdles to clear before it can be successful – but in a courtroom, the audience likely won’t be as forgiving as Friday’s crowd in Minneapolis.
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