Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Sunday said President Barack Obama is emulating one of the worst traits of GOP President Teddy Roosevelt — his disregard for the Constitution.
Grassley tweeted late Sunday night that Obama "considers the Constitution a nuisance." While Grassley wasn't more specific, many Republicans have complained about Obama's various unilateral decisions to amend and delay Obamacare, change immigration rules, and even engage in military action without considering Congress.
When Pres Obama says I hv pen and ph if Congress won't I will he's like the Roosevelts he considers Constitution a nuisance— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 15, 2014
Grassley's comparison between Obama and Roosevelt was apparently prompted by the Sunday broadcast of the first installment of Ken Burns' new documentary, "The Roosevelts," on PBS. The documentary has prompted a new wave of interest in Roosevelt, and has led to some press reports noting Roosevelt's view that the president has broad authority to operate, an argument Republicans have rejected in light of Obama's use of executive power.
"One century later Theodore Roosevelt says government can do anything that is not specifically prohibited in the Constitution," said scholar Clay Jenkinson, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He believed government had to be more central, energetic and assertive than the Constitution had envisioned it or we could not go on as a nation."
The White House website says Roosevelt, a Republican, believed the president was a "steward of the people" and should take "whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution."
"I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power," Roosevelt once wrote, according to the White House.
Obama himself has gone out of his way to emulate certain aspects of Roosevelt, who made a lasting mark in history by fighting corporate monopolies, and championing, labor rights and higher taxes on "big fortunes" in order to help average Americans. Roosevelt delivered his "New Nationalism" speech in Osawatomie, Kansas in 1910, which laid out many of these ideas, and Obama tried to emulate that speech in his own set of remarks in Osawatomie in 2011.
"Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical," Obama said of Roosevelt's prescription for America. "He was called a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly and those with disabilities, political reform, and a progressive income tax."
Grassley's complaint about Obama's abuse of the Constitution has been a central theme of Republicans for the last few years. House Republicans have already approved a resolution allowing the House to file a civil lawsuit against the White House for its selective implementation of Obamacare.
This very week, Congress will resume its debate over whether and how it should authorize the Obama administration to provide equipment and training for moderate Syrians. While the White House has said it would welcome this authorization, it has also said it's not needed, and does not plan to offer specific language.
That goes against House Republicans' expectations that the White House should put forward an authorization request.
The Obama administration has also said it plans to create some form of protected status for several million illegal immigrants, an action Republicans have said would clearly violate immigration laws as passed by Congress. Many Republicans say that move would be Obama's most overt act against Congress and the Constitution, and even many Democrats have warned against taking this step before the mid-term elections — Obama has since said he would take some step after November.