Obama has much work to do in final days of term
President-elect Donald Trump has accused President Obama of putting up “roadblocks” to a smooth transition. In reality, I think President Obama has been too cooperative with Trump.
I’d recommend Obama take the following last stands in the final weeks of his administration:
1. Name Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the president power to fill any vacancy during the recess of the Senate. The Supreme Court is no exception. Justice William Brennan began his court tenure with a recess appointment in 1956.
Any such recess appointment would expire at the end of the next Senate session. So if Obama appointed Garland before Jan. 20, the appointment would last until December 2017, the end of the first session of the 115th Congress.
2. Use his pardoning authority to forgive “Dreamers.” With a flick of his pen, Obama could forgive the past and future civil immigration offenses of the nearly 750,000 young people granted legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
This won’t give them citizenship. But without an immigration offense on their records they could more easily apply for legal status.
3. Add another economic sanction on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Block all loans or investments by Russian nationals in real estate ventures in the United States.
Trump’s businesses might suffer, but, hey, that’s the price of making America great again.
4. Protect the civil service from the Trump transition. Instruct all Cabinet departments and agencies not to respond to any Trump transition team inquiry that might intimidate any individual members of the civil service.
5. Issue an executive order protecting the independence of all government fact-finding agencies. Included would be the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Trump could repeal the order after becoming president, but that would be politically costly because it would reveal his intent to quash the truth.
6. Issue an executive order protecting the independence of all inspectors general in every Cabinet department and agency. (Ditto.)
7. Issue a report on the likely outcomes of Trump and Paul Ryan’s proposed tax cuts and budget cuts, showing which state’s citizens will benefit the most and which will lose the most.
Tax cuts going to the richest Americans and largest corporations will overwhelmingly benefit the citizens of blue states. Cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and the repeal of Obamacare, will disproportionately burden red states. Republican voters should know this.
President Obama has only a short time left in office. He should act on these quickly.
Editor’s note: Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few,” now available in paperback. His new film, “Inequality for All,” is now out on Amazon, DVD and On Demand. His daily blog is at www.facebook.com/RBReich/.