Behind Closed Doors, Obama Crafts Executive Actions

8/27/14
 
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from The New York Times,
8/18/14:

When President Obama announced in June that he planned to bypass congressional gridlock and overhaul the nation’s immigration system on his own, he did so in a most public way: a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Since then, the process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of his presidency — and his most consequential use of executive power — has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.

Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue.

“The president has been clear that he will use all of the tools at his disposal, working with Congress where they are willing but also taking action on his own where they aren’t, to expand opportunity for all Americans and help more families share in our economy’s continued progress,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman. “As part of this process, the administration has engaged a wide range of stakeholders and has solicited input from groups and individuals representing a diverse set of views.”
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Activists and business groups that stand to gain from the moves are eagerly providing the White House with their side of the case.

“We’ve been talking to them about what we believe they can do while we wait for Congress to act,” said Scott Corley, a lobbyist for Compete America, a coalition of Silicon Valley companies seeking relief for foreign-born technology workers. “We’ve looked at where the legal authority exists, and we’ve found lots of ways in which the administration can move forward.”

The go-it-alone approach has left the administration — which claims to be the most transparent in United States history — essentially making policy from the White House, replacing congressional hearings and floor debates with closed meetings for invited constituencies. ​

“The executive branch is not really set up to be a deliberative body like the Congress is,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a government professor at Bowdoin College who has studied the consequences of executive action. “The process is certainly stacked toward the policy preferences of the administration, and they’re going to listen to the people they think are right, which usually means the ones who agree with them.

“Those who are ‘in’ will engage the White House and the agencies to get their priorities met, and if you’re ‘out,’ you turn to the legal process” to challenge the executive action after it is taken, he said.

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