The pen is mightier than the sword. Couple it with a phone and it becomes mightier than Congress—and perhaps even the Constitution.
That’s one way of interpreting President Obama’s promise to use some combination of the bully pulpit and executive orders to bypass Congress. “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama said at the year’s first Cabinet meeting. “We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”
After all, why wait? We are the ones we have been waiting for.
While the president also stressed he was “looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans, House members and Senate members,” his remarks were redolent of Clinton aide Paul Begala’s enthusiastic—if constitutionally illiterate—celebration of executive orders: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool.”
But in an administration that increasingly seems to wing it when it comes to limits on its own power, it may not be the law or the land or particularly cool. Even the liberal justices of the Supreme Court appeared skeptical of the White House’s expansive claims of recess appointment powers during oral arguments Monday.