Moving to regulatory fights after a red wave

Posted on September 7, 2010

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Both Jon Ward at the Daily Caller and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air speculate on the direction the Obama administration might take following a Republican takeover of one or both Houses of Congress – a scenario that is exceedingly difficult but possible. Both come to the same conclusion – that rather than triangulate toward more centrist positions a la Clinton, Obama would plow ahead with his agenda by switching to regulatory policy strictly within executive branch agencies.

President Obama would certainly have the latitude to do so, especially given the language of regulations in the health care bill and the financial regulation bill that have yet to be written or divulged to the public. Much hay has already been made about the EPA’s decision to classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant, neatly sidestepping a legislative showdown over cap-and-trade that would become even more impossible with a Republican majority.

I have to agree with Mr. Ward and Mr. Morrissey – unlike Bill Clinton, Obama is no political pragmatist looking out for the political interests of him and his party. Rather, he strikes me more as an unyielding ideologue who possesses an unwavering belief that his agenda is right, no matter what the rest of the country has to say about it. It then follows that to enact that agenda his administration would follow the path of least resistance and use executive orders and executive regulations to achieve the same effect.

Liberals liked to assert (not altogether wrongly) that Bush overextended the powers of the Presidency, but Obama, should he take this route, would elevate executive privilege to the highest level. What use would Congress serve at all since it has already granted Obama and the executive branch all the power it needs to go full-bore after its own aims?

The answer is funding power, and to a lesser extent judicial review by the court system. Obama can write whatever regulations he wants, but if Congress defunds the agencies and mechanisms or the courts find them unconstitutional (which the individual mandate may turn out to be) then it sets up fights of a different nature but result in the administration still facing battles over the continued implementation of its agenda.

Regardless, it would be the epitome of tone-deafness should the Obama administration continue full steam ahead after suffering a potential setback at the polls in November. Clinton’s triangulation wasn’t only smart politically, it was the right thing to do by recognizing the mood of the country and respecting the direction of the electorate. If Obama merely changes his tactics and not his course, then he will solidify the belief that he and his administration don’t really care what the voters think. It’s an arrogance that I believe will unfortunately rear its head should the GOP win even just the House.

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Posted in: Politics