In both number and significance, Obama’s use of executive orders pales against some of his predecessors. A simple search of “executive order” at history.com lists far greater exercises of executive power than President Obama has used. Even eliminating such egregious abuses as the internment of Japanese Americans, the list of executive orders includes such sweeping acts as the establishment of the Peace Corps, creation of military bases on foreign soil, integrating the armed forces, and ending discrimination in housing. Wars were entered and exited by executive order, and more recently, we have George Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and enhanced interrogation techniques.
Today, President Obama has been accused of unprecedented abuse of his executive authority, largely stemming from his order to delay implementation of the employer mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. By delaying the order, Obama is accused of violating Article Two of the United States Constitution, which commands the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.
But delays of implementation have been used frequently in the past. In the early 90’s several laws passed by Congress were delayed, with Bush (Sr.) administration officials blaming Congress for writing laws that were too complex to enforce, according to an article in the New York Times by Robert Pear dated March 31, 1991. According to that same article, the Reagan administration also used delays to “enforce its philosophy of less government and to save money”.
It might be a constitutional violation if Obama used executive orders to thwart duly passed legislation, but Obama delayed the employer mandate to ensure the Affordable Care Act could be properly enacted despite initial problems. He did so to address complaints from conservative organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – complaints about difficulty in compliance which in turn would mean difficulty in enforcement. Some of those difficulties stem from Obama’s opponents’ efforts to make the Affordable Care Act as difficult to implement as possible.
Any doubt that the delay in implementing the employer mandate was an effort to ensure the law was properly executed should be alleviated by the realization that those who are most bitterly speaking out against the delay are those who want to kill the act. Surely it is those people, not the President, who are working against the faithful execution of federal law.