President Obama on Thursday signed a new order tightening restrictions on federal contractors, but not before he openly dreamed of how much easier life would be if he had even greater executive power.
Flouting a GOP lawsuit challenging the extent of his power, Mr. Obama's latest executive action will force contractors to submit detailed records of labor law violations before they can be considered for lucrative federal contracts. The president has taken several executive steps dealing with federal contractors, an area in which he can take unilateral action.
But Mr. Obama said that if there were fewer limits on his power, he could've accomplished the bulk of his agenda — immigration reform, an increase in the minimum wage and a variety of other items — in just 24 months.
"If I could do all that, I would have gotten everything done in my first two years. Because these policies make sense," the president told supporters just before he signed the order. "I'm confident when we look back, we'll see that these kinds of executive actions build some of the momentum and give people the confidence and hope that ultimately leads to broad-based changes."
Mr. Obama's latest action comes less than 24 hours after the Republican-controlled House voted to sue the president for overstepping his constitutional authority. Mr. Obama brushed off that lawsuit Thursday and said Republicans are wasting time and taxpayer dollars.
He also defended his latest action, saying it's necessary for the federal government to keep a closer eye on companies receiving taxpayer money.
"The ones that don't play by the rules — they're not just failing their workers. They're failing all of us," he told a supportive audience at a White House ceremony.
The executive order requires firms seeking federal contracts to: disclose any labor law violations from the past three years; give employees of those firms more rights to sue for sexual assault or harassment; provide employees more information about their paychecks; and take other steps.
"It's going to send a very loud and clear message to all employers that do contracted work that it's time to play by the rules," Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, told the Associated Press in an interview.
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to push back against Mr. Obama's use of executive authority. House Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday blasted Mr. Obama over forthcoming executive steps on immigration reform, which Republicans argue will be just the latest example of the president going too far.
"We're a nation of laws. The president takes an oath of office in which he gives his word that he will faithfully execute those laws. And if the president takes these actions, he'll be sealing the deal on his legacy of lawlessness," said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican.
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