Sen. John Thune
Last week, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. In the lead-up to the speech, there was a lot of discussion about the nature of the president’s legacy. Less discussed, however, was that most of the president’s so-called legacy may not outlast his presidency, since most of his supposed achievements have never been enacted into law.
Early on in his presidency, it became clear that the president didn’t have much interest in working with Congress in a bipartisan manner, and after losing large majorities in the House and Senate, he made it clear that he did not want to listen to the American people, who had overwhelmingly rejected his far-left agenda. His determination to circumvent Congress and ignore the American people has not only been an affront to the democratic process and an attack on the balance of power our Founding Fathers envisioned, it has also failed as a strategy for securing long-lasting achievements.
As a result of his contempt for Congress and his unwillingness to engage with the legislative process, the vast majority of the items that make up the president’s “legacy” — including the national energy tax, executive amnesty, and the flawed Iran deal — are not actual laws. Instead, the president’s legacy is largely made up of regulations, executive actions, and executive agreements, most of which can be easily overturned by the next administration.
After Congress and the American people rejected Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal, he turned to the EPA to impose his will through heavy-handed regulations, including the national energy tax that will increase energy costs for those who can afford it the least. But because these regulations have been imposed through the administration’s rulemaking process instead of through congressional action, a new president could start the process of repealing these rules as soon as he or she takes office. In fact, at least two of these rules could be eliminated even sooner, since they are currently being challenged in the courts.
The president’s immigration legacy is in even worse trouble. In November the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision blocking the president’s attempt to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. The administration is currently appealing the appeals court’s decision to the Supreme Court, but even if the administration should prevail, a new president could overturn President Obama’s amnesty on the first day of the new administration.
Then there’s the president’s nuclear deal with Iran, which the president obviously regards as a signature foreign-policy achievement. Leave aside that the deal paves the way for a nuclear-armed Iran. This agreement is yet another part of the Obama legacy that can be overturned by the next president, because President Obama refused to submit this deal to the Senate as a treaty and instead chose to complete it through an executive agreement.In short, most of the president’s legacy is paper-thin and may not outlast his final year in office. Even the president’s two actual legislative achievements may not long outlast his administration. Obamacare is already collapsing under its own weight, and parts of the president’s Dodd-Frank law are under scrutiny by Congress. Thanks to the president’s decision to bypass the people’s representatives in Congress, his real legacy may turn out to be that he doesn’t have one.