- - Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chronicling President Obama’s constitutional usurpations is like memorializing the sins of the Borgia Popes.

They benumb by repetition.

The latest is Mr. Obama’s imminent issuance of an executive order usurping congressional authority to enact labor laws. Typical have been laws regulating minimum wages, maximum hours, non-discrimination, employee benefits, plant closings, etc.


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The presidential-legislative order would require federal government contractors to provide 56 hours of paid sick leave for employee illness or because of an employee need to care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner “or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Sick leave to care for flora or fauna — a beloved canine like Lassie — would seem to be required by the latter residual clause.

The executive order would also require paid absences due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking if the time away from work were used to seek medical treatment, relocation assistance from victim services organizations or to prepare for civil or criminal proceedings.



The president recognized in his State of the Union message in January that Congress is empowered by legislation to mandate paid sick leave for all employees. He exhorted the House and Senate to, “Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.”

But Mr. Obama habitually sneers at the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers — the cornerstone of individual liberty and justice. Thus, he has not awaited congressional action on sick leave, but sallied forth on his own to ordain the desired result.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly lectured, however, that by architecting a diffusion of federal power among three different branches, and by denying any branch unchecked authority, the Framers aimed to protect citizens from arbitrary or unaccountable government.

Mr. Obama’s sick leave executive order follows predecessors requiring federal contractors to recognize same-sex marriages, practice non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, and pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. The president even flirted with a mandate that federal contractors disclose political contributions. Waiting in the wings may be executive orders prohibiting them from emitting greenhouse gases, using electricity derived from coal, or withholding information from the National Security Agency or FBI.

Mr. Obama’s sick leave executive order does not usurp all legislative authority over labor relations. It applies only to the approximately 10.5 million federal government contractors who supply more than $500 billion in goods and services to various government agencies. But the financial impact will be enormous by any yardstick. And the precedent will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for use by any occupant in the White House to circumvent Congress whenever a legislative consensus for the enactment of a policy cannot be assembled.

President Obama summons the Procurement Act to justify his executive orders governing federal contractors. Its objective is “to provide for the Government an economical and efficient system for procurement and supply.” The President is empowered to prescribe policies and directives “as he shall deem necessary to effectuate the provisions” of the Act.

But any nexus between presidentially mandated sick leave policies and economical and efficient procurement would be purely imaginary. No employer will for long escape bankruptcy if its sick leave polices diminish efficiency or inflate costs. In contrast, President Obama’s executive order is driven by political considerations, not economics. Only a simpleton would believe that the order emerged from a calculation of the potential savings in government procurement costs as opposed to its political benefits to the Democratic Party and Mr. Obama.

Meanwhile, Congress watches in splendid stupefaction.

It has earned the disgust or derision of the electorate.

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