What Constitution? A round-up of the Obama administration's executive overreach

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By: RJC Communications Director Shari Hillman

George Washington and James Madison are spinning in their graves. Both men helped to define the power of the President as a limited executive bound to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” in the words of the Constitution, and as one who does not have the power to make laws, amend laws, or set aside laws on his own. Then came Barack Obama.

Over the last five years, Pres. Obama has essentially made, amended, and set aside laws by executive fiat. The list of his administration’s unilateral actions exceeding the power of the Executive Branch is quite long. In his 2014 State of the Union address he promised to continue to act on his own, without Congressional authority or support, to move his agenda forward.

In some cases, the President has taken actions that go precisely counter to the language of existing law.

The Obamacare law gives a specific date for the employer mandate to kick in. By January 1, 2014, medium and large businesses were required to provide health insurance to all full-time employees, with the attendant paperwork and the costs for non-compliance. President Obama has twice delayed the employer mandate, without any change in the law.

The welfare reform act signed by President Clinton in 1996 required that a certain percentage of able-bodied adults receiving welfare benefits be working or preparing for work. This change succeeded in helping millions get into the workforce and out of poverty. The law specifically forbids the waiver of the work requirements, yet in 2012, HHS announced that states could ignore those requirements and replace them with new standards invented by the Obama administration without congressional action.

In other cases, the President has chosen not to enforce existing law, without any action by Congress to repeal or amend the law.

President Obama instructed federal officials not to enforce immigration laws on a certain group of people who are in this country illegally: nearly all of the estimated 1.7 million people who came to this country before the age of 16. This is the cohort that would have been protected from deportation under the DREAM Act, an Obama administration priority that Congress rejected twice. With his legislative agenda on the issue stymied, the President unilaterally narrowed the reach of existing law as if the Dream Act had passed.

When Americans realized that the President’s promises about keeping your health care plan and your doctor were lies, Pres. Obama tried to “fix” the problem by instructing insurance companies that they would not be penalized for continuing to sell policies that did not meet the standards set out by Obamacare, plans that were therefore illegal after January 1, 2014. State insurance commissioners and insurers balked at the offer.

The Obama Justice Department has instructed the U.S. Attorneys in those states that have legalized marijuana that they should not prosecute marijuana buyers and sellers whose conduct violates federal drug laws. The Supreme Court has upheld the federal Controlled Substance Act as the controlling law when it conflicts with state law, but the President is here again refusing to enforce federal laws against a particular group of people.

In education, the President has used executive power to replace elements of existing laws he doesn’t like with federal “guidelines.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act conditions federal funding to public school districts on their meeting certain state-defined educational goals. Some states worried that they would not meet the required goals by the law’s deadline. Pres. Obama told the states that they could request a waiver from those requirements in exchange for implementing the administration’s controversial Common Core standards instead. While the Secretary of Education has the authority under NCLB to waive the requirements for a state, there is no provision in the law for the Secretary to substitute some other, federal standard for the state-defined standards mandated under NCLB.

President Obama has unilaterally acted in contravention to existing law for political reasons, timed around election campaigns.

There are several examples of this, including the President’s decision to delay the Obamacare employer mandate until after the2014 election. Another example comes from the summer of 2012. That July, the Department of Labor told employers that they did not need to issue the legally-required 60-day notices to employees who were being laid off as a consequence of the “sequester,” the automatic spending cuts provided for in the agreement that ended the 2011 debt ceiling standoff in Congress. Those notices are required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act of 1988.

In addition, the Office of Management and Budget told government contractors that the government would cover certain legal costs they would incur if employees who were laid off because of the sequester sued the companies for not issuing timely notices. Those notices should have gone out just days before the 2012 election. The administration strongly encouraged major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin to break the law so that the layoff notices wouldn’t hurt the President’s image before Election Day. Defense contractor L-3 Communications has since been sued by former employees over the lack of WARN notices.

President Obama’s actions to change and ignore existing law have been labeled “abusive,” “unlawful,” and “unconstitutional” by legal scholars and legislators on the right, while the left has almost uniformly hailed those actions as policy triumphs. When the rule of law is ignored for political purposes, the people and their representatives must act. Voters should remember these abuses of power when they cast their ballots so that Congress – and future Presidents – can bring back into their proper balance the powers and prerogatives of the separate and equal branches of our government, as set out in our Constitution.

This article appeared in the January-February 2014 issue of the
RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
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RJC: Obama Wants to Slash U.S. Funding for Israeli Missile Defense – AGAIN

Washington, D.C. (March 5, 2014) -- President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal, released yesterday, would slash nearly $200 million from Israeli Cooperative Programs, joint U.S.-Israel missile defense projects including the Arrow II, Arrow III, and David’s Sling. These missile defense systems protect Israeli citizens from rockets fired from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria into Israel and from possible future attack by Iran.

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

“Today, the Israelis captured a ship carrying missiles from Iran destined for Gaza and earlier this week a rocket fired from Gaza fell in the Ashkelon region of Israel. The threats to Israel are real, constant, and serious. This is clearly not the time to step back from our support of Israel and her defense. Yet President Obama proposes significantly cutting U.S. funding for joint missile defense projects with Israel at this dangerous time.

“The threats that Israel faces have only worsened in the last three years, in large part because of the Obama administration’s poor handling of the threat of a nuclear Iran, the civil war in Syria, and the situation in Egypt.

“The President continues to claim that he is deeply committed to Israel’s security. But this is the third year in a row that he has proposed massive cuts for these missile defense programs. Once again, his actions on Israel are at odds with his words.

“We strongly urge members of the House and Senate to fully fund all missile defense programs with Israel and reject the President’s unrealistic proposed budget for these programs.”

In February 2012, the RJC released a video ad opposing President Obama’s proposed budget cuts for joint missile defense programs with Israel for FY2013. It is still relevant today. Watch the video here.

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RJC: Palestinian Side Must Take Steps for Peace

Washington, D.C. (March 3, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) released a statement regarding the meeting today between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks said:

"It is the Palestinians who need to make the 'tough decisions' and 'compromises' that President Obama called for in his meeting with Netanyahu today. Israel has made tough compromises for peace many times in the past and they were met with 'suicide bombers and rockets in return,' as the prime minister noted today.

"The Israel-Palestinian conflict will remain intractable as long as the Palestinian side is not willing to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, to stop teaching hatred and violence in its media and educational system, and to end support for terrorism.

"The two leaders also talked about Iran. The possibility of a nuclear Iran is not a problem to be managed, but a critical security threat that must be prevented. Strong sanctions are still the best means of pressing the Iranian regime to give up its nuclear weapons program peacefully. We urge the President and Senate Democrats to allow the bipartisan legislation on Iran sanctions (Kirk-Menendez) to move forward."
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RJC Troubled by Robert Malley Appointment

Washington, D.C. (February 19, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today responded to the announcement that President Obama has appointed Robert Malley to serve as a senior director of the National Security Council, a powerful post inside the White House.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated:

"We are profoundly disappointed to see Robert Malley return to a senior role in Mideast policy making. His record on regional issues is deeply troubling.

"In 2001, after participating in the Camp David talks as a member of the Clinton foreign policy team, Malley wrote an article in the New York Review of Books that blamed Israel, rather than Yasser Arafat, for the failure of those negotiations. In 2008, Barack Obama severed ties with Malley, then an informal advisor to his presidential campaign, after it was revealed that Malley had met with Hamas terrorists.

"In his second term, Obama has brought back a number of former campaign advisors, who had been put aside for holding unpalatable views in an election year. Malley is the latest and perhaps most disturbing of these. His appointment demonstrates that Pres. Obama was never as in sync with mainstream pro-Israel and Jewish community positions as he pretended to be during his campaigns.

"With the stakes so high, Jewish Americans have more reason than ever to be alarmed by Obama’s personnel choices and the signals they send about the direction of foreign policy - especially with regard to the Middle East and our traditional allies there."
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RJC Mourns the Passing of Gordon Zacks

Washington, D.C. (February 1, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition mourns the passing of Gordon Zacks of Ohio, one of the founders of the RJC.

RJC National Chairman David Flaum said, "We are deeply saddened by Gordy's passing. He was a great friend. As one of the early leaders of the RJC, Gordy helped to establish the organization as a big tent, where Jewish Republicans from across the Republican spectrum could engage in building, on a national scale, a respected and effective Jewish Republican presence in our party and in our community."

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Gordy made significant contributions to the RJC and to the Republican Party as a leader, advisor, and mentor. He demonstrated his love for this country and for the Jewish people in countless ways. He will be sorely missed."

May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
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RJC: Feinstein's Comments on Israel Are Outrageous and Baseless

California Senator claims bipartisan Iran sanctions bill allows Israel 'to determine when and where U.S. goes to war'

Washington, D.C. (January 15, 2014) — Today the Republican Jewish Coalition strongly rejected California Senator Dianne Feinstein's suggestion that S. 1881, the bipartisan Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (Kirk-Menendez), would "let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war". The RJC urged Senator Feinstein to retract and apologize for the remarks, made in a speech delivered on the Senate floor yesterday, which have already been amplified by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic commentators.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

"Senator Feinstein is within her rights to disagree with a bipartisan majority of her colleagues who support Kirk-Menendez, but her suggestion that those colleagues have ceded control over 'when and where the United States goes to war' to Israel is outrageous, inflammatory and completely baseless.

"The 'provision' of S. 1881 that Feinstein points to is carefully crafted and subject to a special additional provision making it clear that it does not provide an authorization for war in any contingency.

"Moreover, the language of the provision Senator Feinstein cited is identical to language contained in S. Res. 65, which passed the Senate unanimously - and which Senator Feinstein cosponsored!

"We are deeply troubled to see Senator Feinstein making such incendiary and inaccurate remarks on the Senate floor. We call on her to retract this reckless and false charge and apologize to her colleagues and to the millions of Americans who support a comprehensive, robust strategy to prevent the Tehran regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability."
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RJC Mourns Passing of Ariel Sharon

Washington, D.C. (January 11, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement from RJC National Chairman David Flaum on the passing on former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon:

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ariel Sharon. He was a great warrior who fought wholeheartedly for Israel’s existence, security, and well-being from the very beginning of the State of Israel. He was willing to take risks and to lead from the front – on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

"In 1998, the RJC had the privilege of taking four U.S. governors to Israel; one of them was then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Then-Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon took the governors on a helicopter tour of Israel that opened their eyes to the size of Israel, the proximity of her enemies, and the dangers she faces on all sides. That ride was also the beginning of a friendship between Bush and Sharon, two men who would soon become the elected leaders of their respective countries. This trip formed a strong bond between these leaders and fostered an historic strengthening of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

"Ariel Sharon’s strength and insight have been sorely missed in the years since his devastating stroke. We join with the people of Israel in mourning the loss of one of the true giants of Israel."

*The date of the governors' trip to Israel has been corrected.
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RJC Applauds Senate Support for Kirk/Menendez Iran Bill

Washington, D.C. (January 10, 2014) -- Today the Republican Jewish Coalition applauds the strong support among GOP Senators for the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan legislation that would bolster ongoing diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's progress toward obtaining nuclear weapons capability by clarifying that sanctions will be strengthened if Iran fails to comply with international demands. To date, 95% of GOP Senators (43 of 45) have cosponsored S. 1881, the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated:

"The Kirk/Menendez bill is an expression of urgent concern from the representatives of the American people. It gives our negotiators the necessary tools to stop operating from a posture of weakness and start demanding that the regime in Iran end its nuclear program - period.

"This legislation has been at the forefront of the RJC’s legislative agenda. We are proud of our efforts and those of our grassroots members who have made the case for S. 1881 and worked hard to attract cosponsors. We are proud of the results: by the end of the sixth day of legislative business after S. 1881 was introduced, 43 of 45 Republican Senators had signed on as cosponsors of the bill. We are disappointed that two GOP Senators have thus far failed to join their colleagues as cosponsors and we hope they will yet agree to sign on.

"In contrast to the Republicans, 16 of 55 (29%) Democrat Senators have cosponsored the bill, which speaks volumes about the tensions within their caucus about the necessity of confronting a serious threat affecting the U.S. and our allies. Nevertheless, it is clear that this bill commands broad bipartisan support in the Senate. All that remains is for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fulfill his pledge to allow the Senate to work its will."
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Obamacare Woes Brighten GOP Outlook for 2014 Elections

Monday, January 6, 2014
By: RJC Congressional Affairs Director Noah Silverman

One observer who wasted no time beginning to prepare for the 2014 House and Senate elections is President Obama.

Within days of Obama's second inauguration, Democrat sources announced that the President had pledged to hold at least fourteen major fundraising events for his party's congressional candidates. “Maintaining a Democratic majority in the Senate and picking up Democratic seats in the House will be crucial to Obama as he seeks support for his second-term agenda,” a February Associated Press report noted.

Expectations for Democrat gains faltered quickly. Obama was battered by scandals and embarrassed by his erratic handling of a foreign policy crisis in Syria. Republicans were increasingly confident of their hold on the House and determined to make a strong run to take over the Senate.

The 17-day government shutdown in October changed the outlook dramatically. Polls showed a quick 10 percent decline in the share of voters rating the Republican Party positively and a dramatic gain for Democrats on the 'generic ballot' poll question.

More concretely, Democrats showcased striking gains in candidate recruitment, in some cases landing candidates who had rebuffed previous entreaties to run. And Democrats' political committees raked in record fundraising hauls during the shutdown.

Once the shutdown ended, though, the spotlight was on Obamacare - and Democrat prospects have been reeling ever since.

As 2014 begins, Republicans have surged back into the lead on the generic ballot. Democrat recruiting efforts have stalled. Some of the Democrat candidates who announced bids in October had folded their tents altogether by December.

Hopeful Republicans still have a great deal of work to do – especially with respect to fundraising – but the outlook for taking the Senate and bolstering the GOP majority in the House looks better than ever.


After falling to take the Senate in 2010 and losing seats in 2012, Republicans believe that it's now or never in 2014. Because Democrats made major gains in 2008, there are many more electoral opportunities for Mitch McConnell's team than there are for Harry Reid's.

Ironically, one of the only Republican Senate seats at risk is McConnell's. If the GOP is to retake the Senate, it’s essential that the five-term party leader repel a strong challenge from Kentucky's liberal Secretary of State, 35 year-old Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The other potential GOP trouble spot is Georgia, where the vacancy resulting from two-term Republican Saxby Chambliss's retirement has drawn a large field of Republican candidates that includes three sitting members of the House of Representatives. The winner of an eventual run-off will face off against political newcomer Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the former Senator who held this seat for decades.

Republican opportunities begin with five seats left open by the retirement of veteran Democrat Senators Tim Johnson (SD), Max Baucus (MT), Jay Rockerfeller (WV),Tom Harkin (IA),and Carl Levin (MI). The GOP holds the advantage in the South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia races. And increasingly, Republicans in Iowa and Michigan are convinced they have a chance to 'steal' purple-state seats by challenging Democrat standard-bearers who voted to subject their constituents to Obamacare.

Even if Republicans protect all their own seats and sweep the open seats, though, they'd need to knock off at least one incumbent Democrat Senator to gain a Senate majority. Strong candidates have emerged to take on 'red-state' Democrats Mary Landrieu (LA), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Begich (AK) and Mark Pryor (AR).

And GOP operatives are maneuvering to corral capable candidates who can take advantage in the increasingly likely event that an anti-Obamacare backlash leads to sustained trouble for 'purple state' Democrats such as Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Udall (CO), Al Franken (MN), and Mark Warner (VA).

House of Representatives

In the House, as many as 90 percent of the seats are so securely within the grasp of one party or the other that there is no prospect of a change in party control.

Of the remainder – the 40 to 45 House seats that will see genuinely competitive races – slightly more are controlled by the Democrats. That means that Democrats would have needed to 'run the table' and then some to take a majority.

Democrats' hopes that the government shutdown would create the 'game-changing' dynamic that could make a Democrat takeover possible have been dashed. A December Washington Post analysis calculated that Nancy Pelosi's squad had a one percent chance of returning to power in 2014.

That said, Democrats have had success in the fundraising battle and expect to make a strong bid for control in 2016. Republicans can take nothing for granted as they prepare for intense battles to dislodge the few remaining Democrats holding on in GOP-leaning districts and to protect GOP stalwarts Democrats have targeted for political elimination.
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Brooks: Obamacare Comes Into Painful Focus

Thursday, December 26, 2013
By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks

Like one of those Polaroid instant photographs developing slowly in your hand, the details of Obamacare are coming into focus bit by bit. With each week, we learn more about the serious problems that Obamacare is causing for millions of Americans.

First hit were those whose individual insurance plans purchased in the private market did not meet Obamacare’s definition of “comprehensive.” President Obama said that only a small percentage of people would lose their old insurance plans this way. In reality, HHS estimated that 40-67 percent of individual policy owners would lose their coverage.

Next came tens of millions of people employed by small businesses. Their old insurance plans are being cancelled and the new plans have higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower provider networks. An estimated half to two-thirds of the people who get their insurance through their employer’s small group plan will have lost their current insurance by 2015.

As Obamacare forces insurance companies to cancel policies and replace them with more expensive alternatives that conform to government criteria, more people are forced out of the private market and into the Obamacare exchanges.

President Obama said that the plans available in the exchanges would be better and more affordable. Under Obamacare, all insurance plans must offer the same basic set of benefits, including maternity care, pediatric benefits, and addiction services. That makes all of the plans more expensive. Many middle class families, who don’t qualify for premium subsidies, will pay more for the plans in the Obamacare exchanges than they were paying before.

There is another side to health care costs that is just coming into focus now, too: high deductibles and high out of pocket costs. Many people choosing new plans from the Obamacare exchanges or from their employer’s offerings are finding that their insurance won’t begin paying for care until they’ve spent $5,000, $10,000, or more of their own money toward the deductible first. And once the deductible is met, the coinsurance (the amount the plan pays) may be as low as 60 percent, leaving the individual to pay the rest of the bill for their care. Most plans today have an “out of pocket” cap to prevent people from losing everything in the event of a serious health problem. But in the exchanges, some plans are offered with out of pocket protection only for care provided in-network. If you go to a doctor or hospital outside of your network, your insurance plan may pay nothing.

The President promised you can keep your doctor, but you might have to pay a lot more to see him or her. To keep costs down, insurers are cutting back their provider networks. People are finding that the doctors and hospitals they rely on are not part of their new network. In Georgia, one of the five insurers offering plans on the exchanges has just one hospital in the entire state in its network. In California and New York, major plans exclude the world-class Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

These narrower networks mean that millions of people, including those with serious illnesses, will lose access to the pediatricians, family doctors, specialists, and hospitals they trust. So while people with serious illnesses or chronic conditions can indeed buy insurance plans in the exchanges at the same rate as anyone else and cannot be turned away, whether they can keep their doctors as the President promised is a different question.

Many people with serious and chronic illnesses will also be shocked to learn that drug costs are much higher under Obamacare. Lower premium plans have higher out of pocket costs for medications, and insurance may pay as little as 50 percent of drug costs after the higher deductibles are met. The retail price of some medications used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and other conditions can be thousands of dollars per month. Patients may pay considerably more for drugs under Obamacare plans than they paid under previous plans.

Low-income individuals and families face a different access issue: the single option available to them on the Obamacare exchanges in many states is Medicaid. In fact, the vast majority of those who have enrolled via the exchanges so far have actually enrolled in Medicaid, not an insurance plan. In many places, doctors are refusing to see new Medicaid patients because of the drastically below-market payments they receive for their services to those patients. Coverage without access is not the good health care uninsured Americans were promised.

One of the most visible signs of trouble with Obamacare was the disastrous rollout of the web site portal that was supposed to make learning about and buying insurance plans in the exchanges as easy as shopping at While it’s now possible for more people to access the web site, many very serious problems remain. The site still has extremely poor security, endangering the private information of users. The back-end of the site (really the most important part) sends garbled information to the insurance companies for nearly a third of all applications. Medicaid applications are not being sent to state authorities properly. The payment system, where individuals pay their premiums and the government pays the subsidies, hasn’t even been built. Because insurance companies and states have bad data, no payments, and no way to verify information about applicants, a significant percentage of people who think they’ve enrolled in an Obamacare plan or Medicaid will find themselves without insurance coverage on January 1.

As the true picture of Obamacare becomes clearer, Americans are responding with some of the lowest approval ratings the President and his health care plan have seen to date, notably among women and younger voters, key Democrat constituencies. Most Americans, according to recent Gallup polls, believe that Obamacare should be repealed or scaled back. An AP/GfK poll showed that nearly half of those with employer-provided insurance said their plan was changing and getting more expensive – and three-quarters of those said it was because of Obamacare. As the truth about Obamacare become clearer, it will be Democrats at the ballot box next year that really feel the pain.

Matthew Brooks is the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. This article was published in the Washington Jewish Week, December 26, 2013. 
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