This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," February 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," President Obama vows to go it alone and act on his agenda even if Congress won't. But just how far will executive orders and regulation get him?
Plus, he's taking his inequality tour back on the road. But is economic mobility really on decline in America?
And just in time for the Super Bowl, the debate over football safety heats up. Would you let your son play in the NFL?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Wherever and whenever I can take steps --
-- without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do.
I'll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects.
I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.
I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our
shopping malls or schools like Sandy Hook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to The "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday night vowing to go it alone if Congress refuses to act on his stalled agenda. It's hardly a new approach for the administration, which has made ample use of executive orders and regulation in the past. So what can we expect as his second term wears on? And do Republicans have any recourse?
Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.
So, Dan, we at The Journal argued in the past, for a long time about energy in the executive, as Alexander Hamilton put it. That we need that. You need a president to lead. What's wrong with the president of the United States saying, I'm going to lead, I'm going to do this?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: We have never said the president should simply set the second branch of government aside, Congress, and have nothing to do with them. That's why we are talking about the unilateral presidency. And Obama has been going in this direction since the beginning of his term. After the 2010 elections is when he started doing things like deciding to enforce the Dream Act on his own.
GIGOT: You think there is a difference in degree and kind with what this president is doing and previous presidents have done? Am I reading you fairly?
HENNINGER: Yeah. Some of the things he has done I think have been described as literally breaking the law. For instance, telling states they can get exemptions from the No Child Left Behind Act and things like that or the ObamaCare decisions that he made, which is simply --
HENNINGER: -- returning the -- waiving the requirements for the mandate.
GIGOT: Employer mandate.
HENNINGER: Employer mandate. Then, of course, the recess appointments that he made to the National Labor Relations Board.
This is different than taking executive decisions and executive authority or regulatory decisions that simply -- most discretion to the regulatory agencies have been accorded over time. This is a different degree all together.
GIGOT: Kim, how much can a president, this president really accomplish going out on his own? Can he fulfill an awful lot of his agenda this way?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: A fair amount. There are obviously limits. For instance, in the gun debate, he really wanted gun legislation that would, for instance, restrict the capacity of magazines.
He needed Congress to do that. He has not been able to do that by executive order. But there are tons he can do. And you do see him doing it in places like the Environmental Protection Agency.
STRASSEL: He didn't get Congress to pass a Cap-and-Trade bill for him but he is, in essence, implementing it through regulatory fiat via the EPA.
STRASSEL: And he will continue to do that. He laid out in the State of the Union this week the areas where you will see continued action like that.
GIGOT: James, on the EPA, what is the recourse if the president, when he moves on regulation like this, is there a response? Obviously, it can't be challenged in the courts, and you're seeing that. For example, the recess appointment decision probably will be overturned in the coming months by the Supreme Court. But some of these other things, are the courts the only recourse?
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: You have a few options. As you mentioned, the justices all seemed skeptical of his claim that he and not Congress declares when Congress is in recess. If the courts can help, that's great. If not, Congress does have a role to play.
They have the appropriations power. They can say in the annual bills when they fund the government, you may not spend any of this money implementing X, Y or Z. They also --
GIGOT: But the Senate will say you must fund it because the Senate is controlled by the president's party.
FREEMAN: OK --