Robert Reich: Obama’s Last Stands

Dec. 28, 2016 – President-elect Donald Trump is accusing President Obama of putting up “roadblocks” to a smooth transition.

In reality, I think President Obama has been too cooperative with Trump.

In the waning days of his administration, I’d recommend Obama take the following last stands:

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 appointments made this way expire at the end of the next Senate session. So if Obama appointed Garland on January 3, 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. Without an immigration offense on their records, they could more easily apply for legal status.

3. Impose economic sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election – including blocking all loans or investments by Russian nationals in all real estate ventures in the United States.

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, National Center for Education Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Energy Information. (Trump could repeal the order, but that would be politically costly.)

6. Issue an executive order protecting the independence of all Inspectors General in every cabinet department and agency. (Ditto.)

7. Issue a report on possible tax and benefit cuts, showing which state’s citizens will most benefit from tax cuts going to the richest Americans and largest corporations (overwhelmingly the citizens of blue states), and which will lose the most from cuts in Medicaid and repeal of Obamacare (overwhelmingly red states), along with estimates of such gains.

ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “Saving Capitalism.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL.