Friday, January 29, 2016

What Can President's Do Without Congress?

Democrats had a majority in the House and in the Senate during the first four years of the Obama presidency.  Republicans in the Senate used the filibuster effectively to block many of the administration's initiatives.  Republicans have had a majority in both branches of Congress during his second administration.  This put the Obama Administration in the position of limiting legislative initiatives by a right wing congressional majority.  There was little opportunity for the president to pass any legislation.  This raises a question about presidential authority.  That is, what can a president do to counter congressional opposition.  Elizabeth Warren offers her view on that question.

Warren's answer is simple.  The president has the authority to place strong leaders at the head of the government institutions that he controls.  In many cases he put weak leaders in charge of important institutions such as Justice and the SEC.  Warren argues that this enabled many corporate leaders to to break laws and escape effective punishment.  Corporate fines were imposed on organizations as penalties for criminal charges.  In some cases weak laws were partially responsible, but weak leadership at the top was clearly evident.  However, there were examples of government agencies with strong leaders who were able to do their jobs effectively.  The president has the important power of appointing effective leaders to key administrative positions.  That power should not be underestimated.

The 2016 election will be especially important because a Republican president will have a supportive Congress and an opportunity to appoint dangerous individuals to important positions in government.  Some argue that a Democratic president not be able to accomplish much with strong opposition from Congress.  We need a Democratic president to counter the Republican Congress but we also need a president who appoint strong leaders to key positions in government.

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