Forbes rips Obama’s executive-power promises

Published 9:14 pm Wednesday, January 29, 2014

‘A disconnect’

After he vowed to sidestep Congress with executive orders, implored Americans to continue moving forward despite gridlock in Washington and trumpeted the improving economy, Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday was scathingly critiqued by Suffolk’s voice in the House of Representatives.

The president described numerous instances in which he would circumvent lawmakers, including closing the gap between rich and poor, stoking the fires of economic recovery and ensuring no new sanctions are levied on Iran after it agreed to turn away from nuclear arms.

He said he was “eager” to work with Congress on “a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” but added, “America does not stand still, and neither will I.

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“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Though extolling the efforts and sacrifices of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama said “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force,” was helping rid Syria of chemical weapons, supporting peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and was not just halting but rolling back Iran’s nuclear program.

Here, Obama again said that he would circumvent Congress with his executive signature: “The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.”

Speaking via phone after the speech, Congressman Randy Forbes indicated the president was violating the rule of law, which would have “consequences for generations to come.” He contrasted Obama’s attitude toward the use of executive power to George Washington’s, who during the new nation’s first presidency was asked to work outside Congress to pay troops.

“They wanted him to discard the rule of law … because they felt the end justified the means,” the Republican said. “(But) Washington said ‘No.’”

Regarding the president’s go-it-alone attitude, Forbes said, “I think the American people are getting very concerned about that.”

Forbes slammed Obama’s foreign policy credentials, saying, “If you took a dart and threw it at a map of the world, wherever the dart hit you would not find where his foreign policy has been successful.”

In a statement, Scott Rigell, a fellow Republican congressman in Hampton Roads, echoed Forbes’ view that Obama is overreaching: “By advancing his agenda with an end-run around Congress, the President weakens the structure framed by our Constitution, and that which is so essential to good governance.

“Americans voted in favor of a government that operates within a system of checks and balances, and the president does not have the authority to work around the law.”

Senator Tim Kaine’s remarks didn’t mention executive power.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 — a major announcement in the president’s speech and one that would require Republican support — “is exactly the boost our country needs,” the Democrat said in a statement. Other steps are also required to “restore economic security for hardworking Americans and their families and help long-term job seekers find work,” he added.

Obama’s speech also celebrated America’s approaching energy independence while declaring climate change “is a fact.”

He pressed the importance of immigration reform, bemoaned gender inequality and said he would keep trying to reduce gun violence. He cited troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan and urged fulfillment of his promise to close Guantanamo Bay.

He also defended the heavily criticized Affordable Care Act, which he said had extended coverage to more than 3 million Americans under the age of 26 while more than 9 million had signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid.

He said Republicans should tell Americans how the overhaul could be improved rather than seek to dismantle it: “Let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.”

But whether the legislation is repealed and replaced or “massively reformed” is just semantics, Forbes said, adding Americans “need to know it’s been an abysmal failure.”

“What the American people want us to do is fix the problems,” Forbes said. “But they are massive, and it’s going to require a massive change in the direction this bill originally had.”

“I think most Americans felt a little bit of a disconnect tonight between what the president said and the fact (if) you look at the most recent polling, only a third feel better off than when the President was elected,” the congressman added.

“They are frustrated because they don’t feel like either Congress or the president gives them what they demand.”