A growth in Obama’s power thanks to the GOP


As the end of Obama’s Presidency draws ever nearer, there are doubtless going to be a range of articles evaluating his time in office. This article is fascinating however as it suggests that far from being a lame duck, Obama has in fact maintained or even grown in power over his presidency due to the unwillingness of the GOP to reach compromise (great for essay on bipartisanship). It is definitely worth reading in full, despite the summary below. It is outstanding for any essay assessing the effectiveness of Congress and/or the Constitution or the power of the President (45 marks, Unit 4) as well as for parties in Unit 3.

This article cites the following examples of stubbornness by the Republicans:

  • Unable to pass significant legislation after the PPACA
  • No budget agreements between Congress and White House since 2009 – i.e. Congress failing to use it’s constitutional power to check the President
  • Refusal to hold hearings for the Supreme Court vacancy – could Obama just put someone of the Court? (Constitution doesn’t require a vote in the Senate)
  • Government shutdown in 2013

What this has meant is:

“Not only did Republicans fail to contain Obama, they have enabled him to become one of the most powerful presidents ever, and certainly the most powerful non-wartime president the country has ever known as well as the most active and consequential “lame duck” president in memory.”

So how has Obama responded to this gridlock?

  • Use of executive orders (although the article says he actually hasn’t used this as much as previous Presidents) e.g. Immigration, Guns, etc
  • Use of Presidential Memoranda (over 500!)
  • Relatively unchecked military action (e.g. Libya & drones)
  • Use of Federal Bureaucracy to enact change e.g. EPA rules

Therefore the article concludes:

“The presidency has become so powerful that it matters greatly who occupies the office. In almost any reading of our history and precedent, the president has become too powerful. Fear of executive power was one of the animating features of most of the Founding Fathers. Obama bears his share of responsibility for taking power where he could, but had the Republican Congress attempted to do more than thwart him, he would not have been able to. That makes who we elect now more important than ever. And perhaps Congress will think twice in the future about surrendering more power to the president.”