Time to RESTORE Presidential Restraint



The Obama team long has had particularly cozy ties to BP, with BP-related entities and employees donating huge sums to Obama’s campaigns, and with ABC News reporting that Obama before the disaster had given BP a “categorical exclusion” from a “detailed environmental impact analysis” for Deepwater Horizon well itself.

With even The Daily Beast now focusing attention on the breathtaking scope of Barack Obama’s abusive expansions of presidential power, Gulf Coast lawmakers wisely are rallying opposition to The One’s latest attempted end-run around Congress. Not only is the Obama administration reportedly trying to seize control of BP oil-spill payments from state committees assigned by law to dispense the money, but it also seems poised to give the well-connected energy scofflaw a huge tax break.

In short, the Obama outrages continue to pile up.

First, as background: Despite a lot of claptrap about supposed Republican obstructionism, The Daily Beast eventually got around to describing this:

…an extra-constitutional arms race of sorts: a new normal that habitually circumvents the legislative process envisioned by the Framers. On one side of the aisle, Republicans are providing a blueprint for minority parties to come, demonstrating how it is possible, and politically advantageous, to use procedural tricks to incapacitate a president they oppose. On the other side of the aisle, Obama is drafting a playbook for future presidents to deploy in response: How to Get What You Want Even If Congress Won’t Give It to You. “Obama is the first president to use his unilateral powers so routinely, especially in the domestic sphere,” says University of Virginia presidential scholar Sidney Milkis, a self-described moderate Democrat. “And in some ways, that may be more insidious than what came before.” And so the question now is not whether the presidency has changed Obama. It’s whether Obama is changing the presidency…. [Obama now has] his new governing (and messaging) strategy: if a legislative proposal fails, find an executive order or administrative directive to replace it.

The article provided copious examples of these extra-constitutional power grabs: extensive military action in Libya with no congressional authorization; “recess appointments” to regulatory boards even when the Senate wasn’t in recess; amnesty for young illegal immigrants without congressional approval; multiple Environmental Protection Agency power seizures (some of which already have been halted by the courts) contrary to congressional intent; waivers from the requirements of No Child Left behind, and manifestly illegal waivers of welfare work requirements, to name just a few.

Now comes perhaps an even worse abuse. In those other cases, Obama did things Congress had refused to pass laws to do. In the new BP issue, in contrast, Obama reportedly is close to directly contradicting the manifest intentions of a law he himself signed.

On July 6, Obama signed a bill containing the RESTORE Act, which “requires the Secretary of the Treasury to deposit in [a special trust fund] 80% of all administrative and civil penalties” resulting from the BP disaster. That fund would be distributed specifically to special committees set up by each Gulf Coast state, according to a formula established in the bill.

Now, though, several news outlets report that the administration is negotiating with BP to send the money not to the states, but instead to purposes of the administration’s own devising, via something called a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA).

Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and the Florida Panhandle would be especially short-changed if this happens, because NRDA would focus relief only on environmental damages – in other words, mostly the marshes of Louisiana – rather than on ameliorating major economic damages caused to tourism, fishing and other industries.

Gulf Coast senators and House members of both parties have vociferously objected, with U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-AL, accusing the administration of trying to use the money for “Chicago-style vote buying.”

In what some might consider a supreme irony, funds sent through NRDA are partly tax-deductible, while those controlled by the RESTORE Act would not be. Therefore, this administration which so often has blasted “tax breaks for oil companies” would itself be responsible for giving an entirely unearned tax break to the oil company that created the biggest man-made environmental disaster the U.S. Gulf Coast has ever seen.

Maybe this should be no surprise: The Obama team long has had particularly cozy ties to BP, with BP-related entities and employees donating huge sums to Obama’s campaigns, and with ABC Newsreporting that Obama before the disaster had given BP a “categorical exclusion” from a “detailed environmental impact analysis” for Deepwater Horizon well itself. BP in turn had contributed heavily to “green energy” initiatives favored by the Obama administration.

Whatever the motive, the simple fact is that the president himself signed the RESTORE Act. Failure to abide by its spirit would represent another step towards not just the proverbial “imperial presidency,” but towards a dangerously unaccountable one. Obama is betting, as the Daily Beast noted, that “it’s probably impossible to persuade most voters, and most courts, that the president of the United States is regularly breaking the law.”

But that’s what he’s doing. He must not be allowed to get away with it.



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