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WASHINGTON — Facing the prospect of grinding Republican roadblocks in Congress, Democrats running for president are emphasizing plans to govern with executive action if they win the White House.

On topics ranging from climate to gun control to immigration, candidates are looking at ways to go around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Democrats know they face a shaky path to a Senate majority in 2020 and their approach reflects concern from voters and activists that a president could end up hobbled without a plan to deal with McConnell, who has promised to be a “grim reaper” for any progressive legislation that passes the Democratic-controlled House.

“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate, think of me as the grim reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass,” McConnell said in April. “I guarantee you that if I’m the last man standing and I’m still the majority leader, it ain’t happening. I can promise you.”

In most cases, Democratic candidates are seeking to restore Obama-era initiatives that President Donald Trump has reversed and undo new actions he has taken himself.

“I got a plan for our first 100 days,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said at a candidate forum in South Carolina last month. “Over 100 things you can do without Mitch McConnell, without the Republicans.”

Proposals include rejoining the Paris climate accords and instituting more stringent pollution restrictions on power plants and cars. On immigration, candidates have talked about reinstating protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump has sought to remove (the Supreme Court is set to consider the case), and ending his travel restrictions on certain countries.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, said proposals such as these — while not a replacement for legislation — reflected a broader pessimism about whether anything might pass Congress soon.

“Even if Trump loses and a Democrat is occupying the White House, the idea that Mitch McConnell and his Senate colleagues will pave the way for a bipartisan immigration deal is laughable,” Sharry said. “If you’re going to be a credible Democratic candidate on immigration, you have to talk about what you’ll do through executive action to undo Trump’s radicalism and xenophobia.”

In some cases, Democratic contenders have pledged to go further than former President Barack Obama. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has been among the most forceful in this regard, putting out a plan not only to allow DACA recipients to stay in the country through executive action, but also provide them with a path to citizenship.

She has proposed new restrictions on guns, including new requirements that firearms dealers perform background checks if they make more than five sales in a year.

Harris is marketing her plans as a way to advance top Democratic goals in Congress if lawmakers refuse to act.

“I will give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together, bring all these good ideas together, and put a bill on my desk for signature,” she said in the first Democratic debate, discussing her gun proposals. “And if they do not, I will take executive action and I will put in place the most comprehensive background check policy we’ve had.”

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have both released far-reaching immigration plans that include pursuing alternatives to detention for migrants applying for asylum and ending contracts with private companies to oversee detention centers.

“I’ll work with Congress to pass broad-reaching reform, but I’m also prepared to move forward with executive action if Congress refuses to act,” Warren said in a statement last week.

On climate, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are vowing to block fossil fuel drilling on public land and promote renewable energy sources through executive action, and Warren has also said she’d order the military to prepare for the impact of climate change. On trade, Sanders says he’d issue an executive order to block federal contracts from going to companies that outsource jobs. On campaign finance reform, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says he’d require federal contractors to disclose political donations.

Candidates have touted their willingness to increase enforcement in certain policy areas using existing agencies and commissions. Warren has promised to appoint like-minded allies on consumer issues to key posts in order to potentially break up big tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro has said he’ll step up investigations into allegations of police abuse.

At the same time, a handful of candidates are running counter to the trend by emphasizing plans to curb the powers of the presidency in certain areas, most notably the use of force.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran, has called on lawmakers to “repeal and replace” the military authorization passed after 9/11 to make it more difficult for presidents to take action without going through Congress.

Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., has repeatedly raised this concern and in last month’s debate, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said both parties “have let (presidents) get away with running the military without that congressional approval.” Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has pledged to “only put troops on the ground in places where Congress authorizes it.”

With Democrats sounding the alarm about perceived abuses of power under Trump, the party also faces a choice as to whether it should treat some of his moves as a precedent or voluntarily renounce them before taking office.

The most pressing example is Trump’s invocation of emergency powers to find funding to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Democrats decried the move at the time, but also faced immediate questions about whether they might take similar action if the courts sided with Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., floated a national emergency on guns, for example, while others suggested climate change might be a ripe area for executive action.

“The temptation is definitely there,” Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, said. “As a general rule, anything one administrations gets away with, future administrations are often happy to put in the bank and use.”

Democratic presidential contenders have mostly tiptoed around the specifics of what they might do if presented with that possibility. Sanders unveiled a nonbinding resolution this week to declare a “climate emergency” but that included language clarifying that the measure would not grant the government “any special or extraordinary power.”

But the Trump administration, like many before it, has illustrated how activist demands to test legal boundaries can take hold once parties switch power.

While he was still serving in the House, Mick Mulvaney, who is now acting White House chief of staff, boasted in 2016 that Republicans would prove that their opposition to Obama’s executive orders was “a principled objection” by confronting Trump just as fiercely on similar issues. But when Trump announced a national emergency on the border, which some top Republicans warned would set a dangerous precedent, Mulvaney defended the move by arguing Democrats would do the same thing if they could.

Presidents nonetheless face constraints. The courts are a major barrier, limiting governance by presidential directives alone. While the law grants presidents broad discretion in some policy areas, including immigration and foreign policy, they’re more restricted in others, such as taxes and spending.

Trump has run into legal trouble ending Obama’s DACA program and most recently his own administration’s efforts to put a citizenship question on the census were stymied by the Supreme Court. Obama’s power plant regulations were blocked in the courts, as was his effort to expand DACA to millions more undocumented immigrants.

For that reason, some progressives are reluctant to put too much stock in executive action, seeing Congress — however, difficult — as their primary focus.

“They’re a useful and important tool, but they can’t be the whole plan,” Democratic strategist Adam Jentleson said. “If you want to make big change, you have to pass legislation.”



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Biden takes 3rd crack at New Hampshire presidential primary

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The former vice president is well known in the state, but in unfamiliar territory as the Democratic front-runner.

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Trump jumps into N. Carolina special election, ties Democrat to ‘the squad’

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President Donald Trump says he will rally in North Carolina in support of Republican Dan Bishop, who is running for Congress in a special election after voter fraud allegations tainted a 2018 race in the state’s 9th District.

“Looking forward to soon being in North Carolina to hold a big rally for wonderful Dan Bishop, who is running for Congress,” Trump wrote in a tweet Thursday night before attacking Bishop’s Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, without naming him directly. “His opponent wants Open Borders, Sanctuary Cities, and Socialism. He likes the ‘Squad’ more than North Carolina. Dan has my Full and Complete Endorsement!”

Trump didn’t announce a date or time for the rally, but it won’t be the first time he appears with the North Carolina Republican candidate; Bishop, a state senator, spoke briefly at a Trump rally last month.

And as pundits point to the race as an early indicator of the 2020 election cycle, Trump seems keen on deploying his own re-election strategy: tying Democrats to its most progressive fringes, particularly the young, female liberal lawmakers known as “the squad.”

Bishop is running against McCready, a Marine Corps veteran who lost a race for the seat last year against another Republican, Mark Harris. That election result was thrown out earlier this year amid allegations of absentee voter fraud against Harris’ campaign. Harris declined to run again and Bishop won a spring primary for the race.

While political pollsters have yet to give the race much attention, recent internal polling from the McCready campaign showed the candidates in a tie among likely voters in the special election Sept. 10.

Already, national politics have dogged this closely watched race: McCready returned a $2,000 donation from the campaign of squad member Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., this spring, amid controversy over her remarks about Israel.

McCready responded to Trump’s tweet with a call for donations.

“Look, we expected these attacks, but we cannot let them go unanswered,” he wrote in a tweet.



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Trump speaks with ‘nasty’ Danish PM amid Greenland dispute

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has had a phone conversation with President Donald Trump amid a dispute about Greenland, her office said Friday.

Earlier this week, Trump scrapped a visit to Denmark by saying that Frederiksen was “nasty” when she rejected his idea of buying Greenland as an absurdity.

Both leaders spoke late Thursday, and Danish media reported that the call was “constructive.” Frederiksen’s office says details of the discussion won’t be released.

It is believed that it was the first time the two spoke since Frederiksen, who repeatedly has said the U.S. remains one of Denmark’s close allies, took office June 27.

On Tuesday, Trump abruptly canceled a Sept. 2-3 trip to Denmark as part of a European tour after Frederiksen had called Trump’s idea to buy Greenland “an absurd discussion.”

She also had said that Denmark doesn’t own Greenland, which belongs to its people. The scarcely populated island is part of the Danish realm and has its own government and parliament.

The political brouhaha over the world’s largest island comes from its strategic location in the Arctic. Global warming is making Greenland more accessible to potential oil and mineral resources. Russia, China, the U.S., Canada and other countries are racing to stake as strong a claim as they can to Arctic lands, hoping they will yield future riches.

The sparsely populated island, which is four times zones behind Copenhagen, became a Danish colony in 1775 and remained that way until 1953, when Denmark revised its constitution and made the island a province.

In 1979, Greenland and its 56,000 residents, who are mainly indigenous Inuits, got extensive home rule but Denmark still handles its foreign and defense policies, as well as currency issues.

Denmark pays annual subsidies of 4.5 billion kroner ($670 million) to Greenland whose economy otherwise depends on fisheries and related industries.

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