All-Star Panel: Has President Obama abused his authority?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I've got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won't, and I've got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R – OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: We have a system of government outlined in our Constitution with the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Congress has its job to do and so does the president. And when there's conflicts like this between the legislative branch and the administrative branch, it's, in my view, our responsibility to stand up for this institution in which we serve.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is a solid legal rationale for each of these steps that the president has taken.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Speaker of the House John Boehner saying today the House will sue President Obama for exceeding his executive authority. It's important to point out on executive orders the breakdown here of presidents, the number of executive orders specifically signed. And you see it in President Clinton 364, George W. Bush 291, and President Obama so far 182, the total number of executive orders signed. We're back with the panel. Charles, Democrats point to those numbers and say, you know, look at the numbers.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a completely irrelevant statistic. What matters is the breadth and the scope of each of these executive orders. Obama has essentially rewritten the laws on immigration, on drugs, and then he rewrites his own Affordable Care Act after it passes. You cannot do this. The Constitution says the laws are passed by Congress, have to carried out by the executive. Everybody knows what Obama did with the employer mandate, with individually cancelled plans with deadlines that he decrees just on his own are going to be postponed. It's called implementation latitude. That's not what is going on here. He's essentially having a blank slate, he's writing his laws.

On immigration the Congress was asked in 2006 whether it wanted to do the Dream Act, which is to say that people brought here as children will not be deported. The Congress said no. Obama essentially enacted it by ordering the ICE, the immigration service, not to deport young people. That's a contradiction of how the system works. And with the drug laws, the administration has ordered prosecutors not to prosecute certain drug laws.

Well, that's fine. It we agree on that we should have a debate on Congress and we pass it, the policy issue, it could be a good one. But you cannot do it unilaterally, which is why it's a good thing what the House is doing. There might be a way, and it has a novel theory here on how it can get standing in the courts. The reason it hadn't gotten redressed is because of the courts have said Congress has no standing. This, perhaps, is a way to get it.

BAIER: Kirsten, in addition to Charles' argument, Republicans point to regulations. The EPA, for example, final rules since January 20th, 2009, when President Obama took over, 2,839. And the health care law, 23 unilateral changes by the Obama administration changing, Congress says and Speaker Boehner says, the essence of the law that was passed by Congress.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, I'm not a big fan of executive power, but Republicans are. So, I think it's going to be interesting if this is successful, which I really hope it is, and I'm being completely serious, because things like NSA surveillance or Libyan intervention, for example, would both be abuses of the executive power, those are the kinds of things that, perhaps, the court might find illegal. And I think that would be a good thing. And this will, unfortunately, for Republicans, be applied to Republican presidents in the future as well. So, I think that will be interesting to watch.

BAIER: Steve?

HAYESSTEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Part of the problem with the way that this president, President Obama has sort of horded executive power is that it's totally inconsistent.  There's no rhyme or reason to it. You can argue, disagree with what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did, but they made a principled argument in favor of executive power, applied it, and carried it out. Barack Obama railed against executive power as a member of Congress, railed against it as a candidate, came to Washington, and he has sometimes decided that he likes executive power, usually in the domestic arena he has decided he likes executive power. But on foreign policy and national security where the Constitution actually grants him a fair amount of leeway he decided basically he doesn't. We saw this most in evidence in the Syria debate where he wanted to be constrained, so for the first time he decides Congress is relevant and takes it to Congress.

BAIER: Charles, to Kirsten's point about signing statements, for example, President Bush had signing statements. Vice President Cheney spoke very often about executive power.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, here is the counterargument -- in foreign affairs and the conduct of war there has been a constant tug of war between the executive and the Congress for 250 years because it's ambiguous. It's hard to see where Congress' power stops, the executive starts. And this is a struggle, for instance, the War Powers Act has been on the books 40 years.  There is not one president who has ever accepted it as real law. Some have adhered to it nonetheless. So in that area there is an argument, and you often get executives reaching or you might say overreaching.

But on domestic law there is no ambiguity. You pass a law. You can't amend it after it passed. And that's why I think the usurpations of this administration are so obviously egregious and why the frustration of Republicans, and I would say, principled liberals like Jonathan Turley who talks about an uber presidency, are so important. You have to put a stop to that or the Congress becomes totally irrelevant.

BAIER: You didn't know this but you teed up a sound bite for me. Jonathan Turley.

KRAUTHAMMER: That's why I get the big bucks.

BAIER: Yeah.


JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We have a system that's designed for three branches. But we now have a fourth branch in the form of federal agencies. Those agencies are now exercising judicial, executive, and legislative power that are becoming a government unto themselves. I happen to agree with many things these agencies do. But as a constitutional scholar, it worries me. It is a dangerous thing to have the emergence of a fourth branch in a system built for three. And most of that power is being taken from Congress.


BAIER: Last word, Kirsten.

POWERS: A hundred percent. But Jonathan Turley, also if you ask him about what Charles said on foreign policy would completely disagree with everything that he said and would say that the president does not have the latitude that he thinks that he has in this these situations.

BAIER: Is this a political issue, that it's going to come up in midterms or 2016?

HAYES: It's absolutely. Republicans and conservatives around the country are incredibly fired up about this. I think part of what John Boehner is trying to do here is to respond to that sort of sense of anger and say we are doing something. We are trying to do something about it.

BAIER: One quick correction, the GDP fell to a negative 2.9 percent almost 30 times the initial estimate. I just wanted to point that out.

That's it for the panel. But up next, financial hardship seems to be quite the rage these days. 

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