...GOP leaders said Congress needs to act to curb what they consider to be Obama's abuse of power on a broad scale. "His administration's blatant disregard for the rule of law has not been limited to just a few instances," Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on the House floor. "From gutting welfare reform and No Child Left Behind requirements to refusing to enforce immigration and drug laws, the president's dangerous expansion of powers appears to be endless."
The notion that President Obama is a lawless, out-of-control tyrant, hell bent on creating an unconstitutional dictatorship, has been a Republican favorite in recent months. It's also demonstrably ridiculous. Some routine executive orders do not an autocrat make.
I suspect that GOP lawmakers realize this, in their heart of hearts, which is why they keep the nonsensical accusations in the political realm, rather than the legal realm. If congressional Republicans genuinely believed the president is ignoring the Constitution and flouting federal law, they'd pursue impeachment. That they're not reinforces the impression this is a manufactured, election-year tantrum, not a sincere concern for democracy.
But that doesn't stop Republicans from fully committing to the bit.
Rather than dissect this rhetoric word by word, let's pause briefly to note the accusation that Obama is responsible for "gutting welfare reform," because it's arguably more offensive than the more common foolishness.
As Cantor must know, he's plainly not telling the truth.
We last talked about this, coincidentally, exactly one year ago today (remember the Seinfeld reference?), but in case anyone needs a refresher, let's recap.
In the president's first term, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway, so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened.
That's not "gutting" the law; that's providing governors, including several Republicans, the flexibility they requested to help move beneficiaries back into the workforce. It's exactly the sort of power-to-the-states policy folks like Cantor usually like.
But in 2012, the policy inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to turn this into a rather shameless lie, accusing Obama of weakening welfare work requirements. The more fact-checkers went berserk, the more aggressive Romney became in pushing the lie.
That was nearly two years ago. Cantor still hasn't let it go.
I can't say with any confidence why this persists. Maybe saying "welfare" in an election year is seen as potent in some circles. Perhaps the "Obama is a dictator" case is so thin, its proponents feel the need to make stuff up. We'll probably never know.
Either way, it's disappointing when lies like these persist, and it's even worse when it's the House Majority Leader dragging these falsehoods onto the House floor years after the argument was discredited.