His most recent move was in response to the Supreme Court decision upholding the so-called “show me your papers” provision of the Arizona immigration control statute. The Obama administration, via the Department of Homeland Security, announced that it was revoking agreements with Arizona law enforcement agencies that gave local police the ability to enforce immigration laws.
The revocation was on the heels of the president announcing that his administration would refuse to deport certain illegal immigrants and issue work permits for them, despite Congress’s refusal to enact a legislation to accomplish a similar objective.
The action was justified by the administration with the term “prosecutorial discretion,” which applies to case-by-case determinations individual prosecutors make rather than modifications of existing law.
In 2011 Mr. Obama said, concerning the identical policy, that he would not use the powers of his office to bypass Congress.
“Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself," the president said. “But that’s not how a democracy works. What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform. That is the ultimate solution to this problem.”
President Obama also recently announced that a congressional subpoena seeking Justice Department emails for an investigation into a possible political cover-up of the Fast and Furious gun scandal would not be complied due to executive privilege.
In 2007, then candidate Obama criticized Presient George W. Bush for using executive privilege to protect Karl Rove from congressional questions.
“There’s been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place,” Mr. Obama said.
“There doesn’t seem to be any national security issues involved. ... I think the American people deserve to know what was going on there.”
The Obama administration has filed court papers arguing that the White House should not be required to reveal any information relating to the current policy of killing suspected terrorists through the use of unmanned drones, even if they happen to be U.S. citizens.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union voiced criticism of the president on this matter. Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said the group continues to have “profound concerns with the power the administration is claiming…”
“That the administration believes a power so sweeping should be exercised in secret is astounding,” Jaffer added.
Earlier this year, Mr. Obama decreed that 10 states would be given waivers from the No Child Left Behind act after Congress refused to pass new national education legislation.
He also announced that his administration would not defend the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act despite having been duly passed by Congress and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. Rather than wait for Congress to enact a cap-and-trade law, the White House would accomplish similar objectives using Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gases.
Similarly President Obama made recess appointments to bypass Senate approval when there was no recess, issued so-called signing statements when signing bills into laws, in effect negating parts of them, and engaged the American military in Libya without seeking any congressional authorization.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) remarked on President Obama’s expansive use of executive power with an understated tone.
“I think the narrative is building that they’re using executive power in a way that is uncomfortable to a lot of people,” Graham said.