Already under fire from congressional Republicans for his use of executive actions to achieve policy goals, President Obama used a speech at the annual meeting of the American Legion today to announce 19 more executive actions. The raft of new actions is designed to provide active duty service members with better mental health services.
The announcement comes just a day after GOP leaders in the House – while still safely out of town on summer recess – revealed that they had put aside as much at $350,000 in taxpayer funds to hire an outside attorney to sue President Obama over his use of executive actions. The contract, which was posted on the website of the House Committee on Administration, says that attorney David Rifkin, of the firm Baker Hostetler, will be paid $500 per hour to take on the case, with his fees through January 3, 2015, capped at $350,000.
Among the new executive actions Obama announced on Tuesday were several meant to assure that veterans are effectively screened and treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and that suicide-prevention services are more available and more effective.
Suicide among active duty and retired soldiers has become a scourge in the military community. The president’s announcement took place one day after a soldier at Fort Lee in Virginia committed suicide by shooting herself in the head after barricading herself in a senior officer’s command post. The woman was reportedly a 14-year veteran of the Army with the rank of sergeant first class.
Among other actions, the president announced an effort to identify communities in need of veterans’ mental health facilities, anti-drug abuse programs, and better transition programs for active duty soldiers who need continued mental health care after separating from military service.
There was no immediate reaction from House Republicans to today’s announcement. A request for comment sent to the office of House Speaker John Boehner had not been returned when this story was published.
However, in their announcement yesterday, House Republicans made clear they intend to continue pursuing legal action against the president for his use of executive actions, focusing mainly on his decision to delay enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, which required businesses above a certain size to make health insurance available to employees.
“No president is above nor should operate beyond the limits of the Constitution,” said House Administration Committee Chair Candice Miller (R-MI). “The House of Representatives, using regular order and the powers that the Constitution has provided, calls upon our government’s system of checks and balances and asks the judicial branch to examine the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law. The president must be held accountable, and the House will continue to act in an open and transparent manner to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”
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