Skip to main content

Dear Speaker Boehner: Do your job instead

By Sally Kohn
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1814 GMT (0214 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Obama has issued fewer executive orders than G.W. Bush or Reagan
  • John Boehner's actions smack of irrational partisanship, she says
  • She notes that under Obama, the economy and jobs are better than after Bush free fall
  • Kohn: Boehner's political stunt wastes taxpayer money

Editor's note: Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Dear Speaker Boehner,

President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291.

President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders -- yet the GOP accuses him of being an "imperial president," and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it's as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality.

Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything.

And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution?

Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: "After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, 'where are the jobs?' "

This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week's jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama's leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.

Don't think that recovery is fast enough, Speaker Boehner? Then pass laws to help rather than jeering from the sidelines and rooting for America to fail so you can blame it on President Obama.

You assert that you have passed jobs bills that President Obama and the Democratic Senate are ignoring, but frankly the word "jobs" as you use it there is questionable. Your "jobs" bills include legislation to repeal Obamacare, through which 20 million Americans now have health insurance, cut food stamps for poor Americans and reduce government regulations on fracking.

Meanwhile, President Obama proposed an actual jobs bill that would have created construction jobs to modernize our deteriorating roads and airports, provided tax credits for employers that hired returning veterans, extended unemployment benefits, which also spurs spending, and cut payroll taxes for 98% of American businesses. But that jobs bill was killed by Republican opposition in Congress.

You also accuse President Obama of ignoring the law, of acting like "a monarch or king." Yet the same article of the Constitution that vests power and authority in Congress vests executive power in the President. Since the founding of our country, that power has been interpreted to allow presidents to enact executive orders and determine how the duly passed laws of Congress should be prioritized and deployed.

Obama is (not) the worst president ever
John Boehner: I'm suing President Obama
Boehner: Why we must sue the President

If you're looking for an example of stretching that authority to the point of breaking it, perhaps you shouldn't scrutinize a former Constitutional law professor but instead his predecessors. "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority," Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2005. "The president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired."

Cheney, for instance, described the War Powers Act -- in which a president must gain the approval of Congress before launching armed conflict -- as an unconstitutional "infringement on the authority of the presidency." In both number and scope, President Obama's use of executive actions simply pales against this and other actions one could compare.

Franklin Roosevelt, the last president faced with a massive economic recession, ultimately enacted 3,522 executive orders. Even though his own party controlled both houses of Congress, FDR wasn't sued. He was elected to a third term. And his policies, including his executive orders, helped rescue America from the recession.

In the face of obstructionist Republicans in Congress, President Obama's executive actions also enjoy broad public support.

Some 57% of Americans supported his administrative relief for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States when they were children. And according to a poll conducted by the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, 73% of Americans support an executive order to ban discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

If House Republicans don't like these executive orders, then pass immigration reform and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Don't sue the President. Passing laws that our nation wants and needs is doing your job. Suing the President just because you don't like him is irresponsible partisan petulance.

Speaker Boehner, you write: "If you look back over American history, there has always been a tension between the inherent powers of the executive branch versus the inherent powers of the legislative branch."

Yes, that's true, and President Obama is simply exercising those inherent executive powers. Now please exercise yours and pass some laws to help America instead of wasting taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit that is nothing more than a flagrant partisan stunt.

Boehner: Why we must now sue the President

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT