Yesterday, I shared my disdain for the carnival that surrounds the State of the Union address. The gist of my argument is that the media takes it way too seriously and the President doesn’t need a platform to speak to Congress or the people to lay out an agenda. Perhaps 200 years ago, but not today. It’s largely symbolic and expresses ideas Obama would come around to talking about one way or another. The sames goes for the opposing party’s response. They have plenty of platforms to do that.
Symbolic or not, the content of the SOTU speeches is still relevant. Obama’s plans for pre-K education are a very big deal. But if there’s one surety that came out of all this is that Congress will only help Obama if they feel it will help them in the next election. Obama knows this, and even though he’s more popular now after the election, he needs Congress to make serious changes.
Or does he?
The president said that if Congress isn’t ready to act on things like climate change he’ll seek to use his executive power to make things happen. Remember, he’s the leader of the free world, and the Executive Branch. That means he runs a number of agencies that can set their own rules and through executive orders he can help create even more rules. THe GOP House would be powerless to stop this because they’re just one half of the legislative branch.
But here’s why they might be happy about this situation. Let’s use climate change as an example. Many Republican lawmakers do still treat climate change as if there is a debate. The trend is clear and they’ve focused on arguing against the trend. They’d be much better off arguing the extent to which humans are causing this, but that’s another post for another day. What is true is that no matter what the US does need to reduce its pollution and influence other world leaders to do the same.
Through the EPA Obama will be able to enact laws that help expedite our reduction in pollution. If Obama tried to do this through Congress it would be DOA. Even if Republicans wanted to help their donors are very much against it. Cleaning up our pollution would cut into the margins of many companies that either don’t want to pay for it or don’t think it’s a problem. Republicans know this is something that needs to be dealt with but if they play ball they’ll never get reelected.
So if Obama uses his executive power to further his agenda we can expect to see some grumbling on the other side of the aisle. But the grumbles will come with a wink. And if you’re worried about an abuse of power, Obama is basically on track to have about the same number of executive orders as President W Bush. Public support for his causes will likely mean that the next president won’t pull back these orders even if they wanted to.
It’s disappointing that we can’t rely on the formal process to move the country forward. But within the halls of Washington, this plan likely has support from everyone.
Read: Obama Is Going To Combat Climate Change With Or Without Congress (Business Insider)
Image: Gage Skidmore