This week as President Obama continued his junket in Asia, he could still boast that he could still “get a lot of things done” back home, even despite Congress’s alleged reluctance to “work effectively.” During his visit to Vietnam, Obama lifted a ban on military sales to the Communist republic where more than 58,000 Americans died during more than two decades during the Vietnam War. House Republicans have complained that the Obama administration had overstepped the legislative branch by lifting the ban despite continued human rights violations by Vietnam.
 
On May 24, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee conservatives were also focused on the administration’s May 13 “guidance” to public schools that calls on administrators to allow students to use any bathroom of their choice regardless of their biological sex. “The president now uses more executive memoranda and blog posts for major policy shifts,” complained Rep. Steve King (R-IA) during the fifth of hearings on “executive overreach.”
 
Republicans contend that Obama consistently exceeds his constitutional authority by protecting illegal immigrants from deportation, going around Congress with Affordable Care Act requirements, negotiating international agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership without Congressional approval, and  inventing environmental mandates tied to climate change by using the Clean Air Act.
 
Rep. King said that Obama’s new instructions to public schools about transgender students is “egregious.” The instructions from federal departments of Justice and Education are back by the leverage on states that stems from a 1972 anti-sex-discrimination law that jeapordizes federal funding of non-compliant school districts. King denounced the instructions because they would “let anatomical boys use facilities formally reserved for anatomical girls” under a definition of sex discrimination that he said did not exist and was never contemplated by Congress. At least eleven states agree with King, and have filed suit against the Obama administration over the guidance.
 
Obama, who does not mince words when it comes to stalemates with the Republican-controlled Congress, had hoped to enact a criminal justice reform bill this year and get the completed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement through Congress before the next president is inaugurated. Filling a Supreme Court vacancy with nominee Merrick Garland, a third goal listed by the White House, appears politically unpalatable among Senate Republicans, despite previous GOP votes for the esteemed judge.
 
According to Obama, Congressmen fear breaking with partisan orthodoxy and losing elections, even while he claims that by exerting his executive powers he is but filling in a political vacuum. “Part of the reason we've seen polarization and gridlock here in Washington,” Obama said in April, “is because there's been this great sorting, and Democrats have moved much further -- have moved left. Republicans have just gone way to the right. And it's harder, then, to compromise because members of Congress -- and the same thing is true in state legislatures -- are always looking over their shoulder seeing if somebody in their own party might challenge them. And then the system doesn't work.”
 
With the clock ticking on his last year in office, Obama appears determined to make his mark, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican occupies the White House in January 2016. Besides lifting the ban on military sales to Vietnam, a far-reaching nuclear pact with Iran, rapprochement with Cuba, and transgender restroom, Obama recently made more than 4 million salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. “The legal foundation for making this argument is solid,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the media. “The next president will have to make their own choices with regard to … executive action. That's true on a whole range of things.” 
 
Trump, when asked earlier this year on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” whether he would emulate Obama’s executive orders, said “I won’t refuse it. I’m going to do a lot of things.” He added, “I mean, he’s led the way, to be honest with you.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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