Republicans’ decision to leave town without reauthorizing legislation that funds the Federal Aviation Authority is the latest chapter in a time-honored Washington tradition of using congressional control to keep a president’s executive authority in check.
So far, Republicans have not been able to thwart the Obama administration on these initiatives because of the Democratic Senate and the promise of a veto, but their actions illuminate the headaches that a unified Republican Congress could cause Obama if he wins reelection and Republicans take control of both chambers. It also portends exactly what the GOP will do if it controls Congress and also manages to defeat Obama in 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced a deal that kept the FAA dispute from dragging through the August recess. But the settlement is not a guarantee that the impasse could recur later.
One of the core disputes at the heart of the FAA standoff that led to furloughs for 4,000 employees, idled 200 airport construction projects nationwide, and threatened hundreds of thousands of jobs directly linked to those projects is centered on a ruling last year from the National Mediation Board to make it easier for airline and railway workers to unionize. The decision was made with an assist by two board members appointed by Obama.
The union rule so rankled Republicans that they overturned it in the House-passed version of the legislation, and lawmakers headed for the D.C.-area airports for their August recesses instead of approving even a temporary FAA reauthorization.
It is not the first time that congressional Republicans have sought to thwart Obama’s executive authority. And at the pace that this Congress is going, it certainly won’t be the last.
Republican lawmakers continue to chafe at a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board--on which two Obama appointees serve--to punish Boeing in a legal complaint the board filed against the company for its decision to build a plant in South Carolina as presumed retaliation for a worker strike in Washington. South Carolina Republicans, led by freshman Rep. Tim Scott, took the lead in introducing legislation to strip NLRB of powers that allowed it to make its Boeing complaint in the first place.
But no other agency has garnered as much attention from the GOP as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the financial regulatory-overhaul legislation. House Republicans repeatedly put Elizabeth Warren in the hot seat in congressional oversight hearings.
Warren was an early CFPB advocate who was the informal head of the agency even after Senate Republicans vowed to block her nomination, but she has since left the administration to return to Harvard University. House Republicans have offered a number of other bills -- which the White House has vowed to veto -- to curb the powers of CFPB.
House Republicans have also marched close to a dozen bills through their chamber to cut funding and regulatory authority for the Environmental Protection Agency and dramatically scale back its ability to regulate the energy industry. They have focused similar oversight efforts on funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission.