May 27 2014
President’s Cabinet Changes: More Rule by Pen
Patrice J. Lee
In his seminal book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins explains that great companies do three things: get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.
The President must’ve picked up this book somewhere along the way. He’s made some recent personnel changes within his cabinet that reveal a specific agenda of circumventing the Constitution and Congress to lead by fiat.
In his last State of the Union address, President Obama said this would be a year of action and that he would use his pen and phone (i.e. executive orders) to move along his agenda if Congress proves willing to march to his drumbeat. If Republicans retain control of the House and regain the Senate, he’s likely to have even more opposition to his agenda, leading him to rely more heavily on his regulatory and executive authority to ram through policies.
Is this just overblown conjecture? His action in raising the federal minimum wage for government contractors was a flex of muscle followed by the myriad delays and unilateral changes to ObamaCare. The changes in his cabinet also signal that he plans to rely more on executive orders in his last 18 months in office.
As we know, Sylvia Matthews Burwell is vacating the role of the Office of Management and Budget director to replace Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, will leave that post to replace Burwell. POTUS then brought in rising Democratic star and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to fill Donovan’s soon empty seat.
As the Washington Post observes, it’s all strategic and indicative of what the President has up his sleeve:
The moves seem to be largely about bringing Donovan into Obama’s inner circle. OMB isn’t a distant Cabinet agency. It plays a role in nearly every aspect of the administration’s actions. Its director is among the president’s closest advisers.
At HUD, Donovan has become expert in using the administration’s executive authority to pursue policies rather than relying on legislative action. He has been a central force behind the administration’s foreclosure prevention policies and efforts to expand access to mortgage credit for credible borrowers.
“Shaun has earned a reputation as a great manager, a fiscally responsible leader and somebody who knows how the decisions we make here in Washington affect people’s lives all across the country,” Obama said in remarks Friday.
As Obama looks to his final two years — a period in which he is not likely to have a compliant Congress — he will need to increasingly rely on executive actions that stretch the limits of his authority. He’ll probably want to push in more liberal directions on issues such as climate change, immigration, civil rights, poverty and the economy.
Maybe it flew under your radar and maybe it seems yawn-worthy, because there is always turnover at the White House.
On display are the inner workings of Washington and the game of chess that politicians play which affect the lives of all Americans through new government mandates and regulation.
If nothing else, take this as a warning of what is to come. Eighteen months is a long time to get a lot done by pen. The president’s foreign policy may be weak, but his liberal, domestic focus and energy is anything but that. We must be vigilant.