Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Lacks Options, Tries Execution Actions Analysis

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Lacks Options, Tries Execution Actions Analysis

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's State of the Union address represented a study in scaled-down ambition.

A man who entered the White House yearning for sweeping achievements finds himself five years later threatening an end run around Capitol Hill gridlock by using executive orders, essentially acknowledging both the limits of his ability to push an agenda through Congress and the likelihood that future accomplishments would be narrow. He urged Republicans to join him in a "year of action," but signaled strongly that he would act unilaterally when bipartisan agreement remained out of reach.

Executive orders such as the one he will employ to raise the minimum wage paid by federal contractors may be the only route available to the president, given deep hostility from the House Republican majority and a Congress increasingly focused on the 2014 elections rather than Barack Obama's legacy.

But with some notable exceptions, only so much can be delivered through the president's pen if he is not using it to sign legislation. He cannot raise the minimum wage for most workers, overhaul the Social Security system, grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, reorder spending and taxes or even make necessary fixes to the health care law.

Illustrating how challenging it is to use executive orders in an expansive way, the White House refused to say how many workers might gain under the new wage policy, and Republicans, while criticizing the move, played down its impact.

At the same time, anyone who succeeds him can use the same stroke of a pen to undo Mr. Obama's actions, just as Mr. Obama did to some Bush administration policies one day after his inauguration in 2009.

When it comes to Congress, the formula for success in dealing with a balky opposition continues to elude the White House, except perhaps for a new opening with Republicans on immigration. …

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