Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is pledging to use executive orders to increase her clout in the White House to work around Congress and force Republicans to respond to her agenda, a tactic frequently employed by President Obama that has angered his GOP critics.
On the campaign trail, Mrs. Clinton has said on three occasions so far that she would use executive actions to help execute her domestic policy agenda on issues such as gun control, ending corporate “inversion” deals and immigration, where she promises to unilaterally shield more people from deportation.
“I want to push hard to get more sensible restraints,” Mrs. Clinton said on NBC’s “Today” show, outlining her plan for gun control in October. “I want to work with Congress, but I will look at ways as president” to impose her agenda.
Last week she announced a policy of ending corporate inversions, which is when a U.S. company buys a foreign company and moves its headquarters abroad to avoid paying the higher U.S. corporate tax rates. Again, Mrs. Clinton called for executive action to get the job done if Republicans on Capitol Hill balk.
“This is not only about fairness, this is about patriotism,” Mrs. Clinton said at a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa. “If Congress won’t act, then I will ask the Treasury Department when I’m there to use its regulatory authority, if that’s what it takes.”
And at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Iowa in October, Mrs. Clinton pledged to go beyond President Obama in protecting the rights of immigrants, again through executive orders if necessary.
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“I am going to back and support what President Obama has done to protect [young immigrants] and their families, to use executive action to prevent deportation,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And I have said that if we cannot get comprehensive immigration reform as we need, and as we should, with a real path to citizenship that will actually grow our economy — then I will go as far as I can, even beyond President Obama, to make sure law-abiding, decent, hard-working people in this country are not ripped away from their families.”
Mr. Obama has been criticized by Republicans and some constitutional scholars for exceeding his presidential authority to bypass Congress and to implement policy changes unilaterally. According to a USA Today analysis, Mr. Obama has issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in history. Combined with his use of executive orders, Republican lawmakers have cried foul.
House Republican lawmakers brought a lawsuit challenging the legality of Mr. Obama’s decision to unilaterally delay the employer mandate to provide health care to employees under Obamacare, and the Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the Obama administration’s “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, which were made in an effort to bypass congressional votes.
The use of the executive office to push through policy is not new. During his time in office, President Clinton issued 364 executive orders and President George W. Bush issued 291, compared with Mr. Obama’s 223, according to the American Presidency Project.
In Mr. Clinton’s last two years in office, chief of staff John Podesta undertook the so-called “Project Podesta” to seek out ways in which Mr. Clinton could exercise his authority through federal agencies without going through Congress. Mr. Podesta now serves as the head of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.
• Kelly Riddell can be reached at email@example.com.
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