It’s become clear in recent weeks that President Obama and congressional Republicans are reading from very different scripts. The notion that the two institutional forces are butting heads is plainly wrong – they are two trains on separate tracks moving in completely different directions.
GOP lawmakers are now fully invested in fake “scandals” and an upcoming lawsuit/campaign stunt, the point of which they’re still trying to figure out. Obama, clearly tired of waiting for a Congress that will not govern, has become more enthusiastic about using his executive authority on everything from climate to discrimination to the minimum wage.
Clearly, the president’s willingness to keep governing without them has only enraged congressional Republicans – who were already livid. But it’s now obvious that the president simply does not care. Not even a little. The more GOP lawmaker scream, “No more executive actions!” the more Obama thinks to himself, “I wonder what other executive actions I can take.”
Consider the president’s remarks this morning in advance of a cabinet meeting.
“We’ve already seen the power of some of our executive actions in making a real difference for ordinary families…. But what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress. […]“[I]f Congress is unable to do it, then all of our Cabinet members here – and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways – and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress.”
Obama and his team aren’t only going to do more without Congress – on immigration, among other things – they’re going to get “creative” while doing more without Congress.
This is precisely the kind of position that congressional Republicans do not want to hear. They’re not using their power, and as a consequence, they believe the White House should be equally stagnant.
But after years of trying everything he can think of to get GOP lawmakers to actually legislate, the president has given up. Republicans won’t budge, won’t cooperate, won’t compromise, and won’t work in good faith towards common goals, and Obama no longer sees the point of banging his head against an immovable wall.
Some pundits have suggested the president giving up on Republicans who refuse to govern will only make things worse, but I’m not sure how that’s even possible. If Congress is doing nothing, what’s worse than nothing?
Obama added, “We’re not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least this Congress, the way we want to. But we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we’re pushing their agenda and that we’re working hard on their behalf and we’re doing every single thing we can do to make a difference in their lives. So I want to make sure that we emphasize not what we can’t do, but what we can do in the coming months.”
If congressional Republicans find this outrageous – and we know they do – their remedy couldn’t be simpler: try working on meaningful legislation that’s intended to pass. Obama has said repeatedly, including today, that he’d prefer to sign some actual bills, if only Congress would pass some.
But in the meantime, this is a president who no longer cares whether his unhinged critics are unhappy. It’s a welcome shift in posture, which is arguably overdue.