At 10:39 a.m. (ET) yesterday, President Obama hosted an event at the East Room of the White House, where he signed a sweeping anti-discrimination executive order. Just 29 minutes after the gathering was over, Obama spoke from the South Lawn, addressing the crises in Ukraine and Gaza.
Literally just 35 minutes after those remarks, the president kicked off a town-hall event on his “My Brother’s Keeper” program, where he announced an additional $100 million in funding for his racial justice initiative, “a public-private program that focuses on the unique challenges faced by young men of color.” And two hours after that, Obama was back in the East Room, this time to present the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts.
I think it’s fair to say that was a fairly busy day for the president.
Indeed, for all the talk about gridlock and Washington paralysis, Obama demonstrated yesterday that he’s more than capable, not only of governing effectively, but of tackling a variety of subjects at once. Watching the president pivot from issue to issue yesterday, we were reminded of Obama’s willingness and eagerness to lead, govern effectively, and pursue a clear vision. And it’s not just yesterday – the president will unveil a series of executive actions today on job training.
Congressional inaction is a time-honored tradition in the months before an election. But the stagnation in this Congress – even in the face of mounting national and international challenges – only bolsters the perception that this is really the least productive in history. And a thaw doesn’t appear to be in the offing as each party commits to seeking an elusive, post-election upper hand.
The contrast between an active president, appearing almost desperate to get things done, and a passive Congress, spinning its wheels without direction, is stark.
Remember the VA crisis? Lawmakers quickly approved a reform bill, which now appears likely to fail because of House Republicans’ reluctance to compromise. Remember the plan to address the border crisis? The plan was for Congress to act before taking August off, but that now appears unlikely, too.
The effort to extend unemployment benefits is dead. So is raising the minimum wage. So is ENDA. No one even talks about gun background checks anymore. The Highway Trust Fund will probably benefit from a stopgap measure, but even this hardly represents real governing.
It’s all rather discouraging, and as yesterday’s circumstances helped make clear, Republicans are going to have a tough time blaming inaction on the Obama White House.