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Allison: On Obama’s Executive Actions



U.S. President Barack Obama believes the 112th Congress was largely unproductive – and that the 113th may be similarly unproductive.  As a result, Obama is seeking to take matters into his own hands. During his most recent State of the Union address, we learned Obama was advancing six executive orders aimed at making changes on five different domestic policy fronts.

In fact the President announced he had already signed one of those new executive orders – dealing with cyber security.  Under that order, government agencies will create a security framework that businesses can adopt and the government will share cyber threat information with infrastructure owners.  In addition to this announcement, the President also urged Congress to pass CISPA – which has been criticized by civil liberty advocates who argue the law would allow the government too much access to private individuals’ internet traffic information.

Here are the other executive orders President Obama may be considering:

  • Equality for LGBT Employees:  So far Congress hasn’t passed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend full protection to all Americans regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  Should the President issue an executive order, it would only apply to employees of federal contractors; it would not affect LGBT Americans, in 29 states, who can still be fired for their identities.
  • Fair Pay for Home Medical Care Employees: A decades-old labor law amendment means in-home medical care workers can be paid less than minimum wage and be prevented from receiving overtime wages.  It may be important to note that these employees are usually women and/or racial minorities closer to the poverty level.  The President hopes to end the exemptions, revising the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Housing: Millions of homeowners today owe more on their mortgage than the current worth of their homes. The President is considering a refinancing plan that would allow struggling homeowners with private mortgages to refinance at today’s low interest rates.  He has already made refinancing easier for those homeowners with loans backed by government-financed mortgage companies.
  • Climate Change: President Obama is considering expanding two of the executive actions from his first term dealing with climate change.  The first deals with regulating carbon emissions for existing power plants; under the Clean Air Act the standards only apply to new power plants.  The second is an expansion of the Better Buildings Initiative, which seeks to rehab public and private sector buildings in an effort to make them more energy efficient.

A little more than a year ago, the Obama Administration launched “We Can’t Wait,” a policy initiative developed in response to Congress’ unwillingness to pass legislation proposed by the President. The President proceeded to take actions that made changes without congressional approval; not surprisingly, Republicans were unhappy – and made their complaints heard.

President Obama’s previous executive actions may provide the public with valuable changes, but that change is ultimately incomplete without legislative action.  Whether you agree with his policies or not, we can all agree that he must weigh the hope of making progress on his agenda with the risk that acting too quickly and too aggressively could hinder his already damaged relationship with Congressional Republicans and more importantly the possibility of substantial legislation.

Morgan Allison is a student reporter at Erskine College. Follow her on Twitter @m_allison6.