Amy Gehrt: A well-deserved break from what, exactly?

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Congress has just begun a five-week summer recess — or soon will, after extending the session by a day for a last-ditch effort to get something hammered out on immigration reform — but, based on how little lawmakers have managed to accomplish this year, one would be forgiven for thinking they had already been on an extended monthslong vacation.

Bills that boasted bipartisan backing have floundered. Measures that should draw widespread support never get called for a floor vote — and some never even see the light of day. And compromise ... well, that seems to be a dirty word on Capitol Hill these days.

If you’re hoping that lawmakers might return from their break well-rested and ready to get to work, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. The midterm elections are less than 100 days away, so ramped-up partisan political plays are bound to bring even more gridlock to the nation’s capital this fall.

Need more proof? One need look no further than the House of Representatives, where a cheap political stunt is already underway that could prove quite costly to the taxpayers ... to the tune of millions of dollars. Rather than spend one of the final days of the session trying to pass real legislation, the GOP-led House instead authorized a lawsuit against President Barack Obama Wednesday.

“What price do you place on the continuation of our system of checks and balances? What price do you put on the Constitution of the United States?” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich, told The Associated Press. “My answer to each is ‘priceless.”’

Republican leaders can try to claim the suit is a bid to stop a power grab all they want, but in reality the only thing they’re hoping to gain is a groundswell of enthusiasm from the conservative voters they desperately need to lure into the voting booth — but may have difficulty doing because the bulk of their “crowning achievements” lately lie in preventing progress, not actually accomplishing anything substantial.

So let’s look at the facts. Yes, Obama has used his executive authority — as have his predecessors, Republicans and Democrats alike.

According to The American Presidency Project, an online database whose searchable archives contain 105,449 presidency-related documents, Obama has issued 183 executive orders in his presidency, compared to George W. Bush’s 291 and Bill Clinton’s 364.

In fact, of the last 10 presidents, Obama has issued the third-fewest EOs, trailed only by Gerald Ford’s 169 and George H.W. Bush’s 166. At the top of that tally, by the way, is Republican darling Ronald Reagan, who issued 381 executive orders. Of course, all of those numbers pale in comparison to some of our earlier presidents — Herbert Hoover, 968; Theodore Roosevelt, 1,081; Calvin Coolidge, 1,203; Woodrow Wilson, 1,803; and Franklin D. Roosevelt, 3,522.

However, the total tally doesn’t provide the full picture, as the length of a presidency can vary. So to put it in perspective based on a yearly average, Obama has issued the fewest of any U.S. president in the past 10 administrations, at 33.27 EOs. Compare that to the top five — Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, all of whom issued EOs in the 62.3 to 80 per year range — and the “Obama is a power-hungry monarch who needs to be stopped” allegation gets even more transparent, doesn’t it?

And before those of you who disagree with me fire off an angry email about how “unprecedented” and “broad” his actions have been, let’s again turn to the history books. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, the very man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, used an executive order to complete the Louisiana Purchase — even though he himself doubted its constitutionality.

And while the National Security Agency information collection on Americans has been grabbing headlines a lot this year, it turns out the authority for that surveillance comes courtesy of an executive order signed by Reagan in 1981. Talk about far reaching.

It also seems a bit hypocritical to be objecting to Obama’s delay of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate until 2015, since the president is doing it at the request of small businesses, many of whom said they needed extra time to implement the ACA requirements. After all, isn’t helping businesses supposed to be one of the GOP’s primary party platforms? Yet now they want to sue to make Obama enforce the law — the very same law they have tried to repeal, in full or in part, 55 times — despite the negative impact businesses say it will have on them, and that doesn’t seem fishy?

Perhaps what has made Republicans in the House so angry is that Obama is actually managing to still do his job despite the roadblocks they keep erecting at every turn.

“Stop being mad all the time. Stop just hating all the time,” Obama pointedly told GOP lawmakers during a speech in Kansas City, Missouri, Wednesday. “Come on. Let’s get some work done together.”


Amy Gehrt is the city editor of the Pekin (Illinois) Daily Times. She may be reached at, or on Twitter @AmyGehrt. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Pekin Daily Times or this publication.