The Heritage Foundation

Factsheet #138

February 26, 2014

February 26, 2014 | Factsheet on

Top 10 Abusive Executive Actions by the Obama Administration

A System of Divided Government

  • Ours is a government of laws and not of men; thus, all are subject to the law and not above it.
  • Instead of placing the legislative, executive, and judicial powers in one person, the Constitution divides federal power among three distinct but coordinate branches.
  • The Founders devised a system of checks and balances that divided the powers of government to protect the liberties of Americans from encroachment by the federal government.

A Hallmark of the Obama Administration

  • Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution requires the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
  • The President enjoys wide discretion in how to carry out the laws, but it is not within the President’s power to create the laws.
  • Time and again, President Barack Obama has signaled his willingness to “go it alone,” acting without congressional approval.
  • When Congress refuses to accede to the Obama Administration’s liberal policies, the Administration imposes “laws” by executive fiat.
  • When the Administration disagrees with duly enacted laws or finds it politically expedient not to enforce them, it ignores or skirts the law or claims to have “prosecutorial discretion” not to enforce the law.

Top 10 Abusive Executive Actions

  1. Amending Obamacare’s employer mandate, providing an unauthorized subsidy to congressional staff, and encouraging state insurance commissioners not to enforce certain requirements.
  2. Inventing labor law “exemptions” in violation of the WARN Act so that workers would not receive notice of impending layoffs days before the 2012 election.
  3. Waiving the mandatory work requirement under the 1996 comprehensive welfare reform law, which required able-bodied adults to work, prepare for work, or look for work in order to receive benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
  4. Ignoring a statutory deadline and refusing to consider an application related to nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain, which activists sought to block for years.
  5. Circumventing the Senate’s duty to provide advice and consent on appointments and instead making “recess” appointments in violation of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution when the Senate was actually in session.
  6. Deciding not to defend the constitutionality of the federal definition of marriage in court.
  7. Implementing Common Core national standards through strings-attached waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act.
  8. Intimidating Florida to stop its voter roll cleanup, which included removing ineligible voters such as noncitizens, before the 2012 election.
  9. Imposing the DREAM Act by executive fiat under the guise of “prosecutorial discretion.”
  10. Refusing to enforce federal drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana.

For more information, check out: An Executive Unbound: The Obama Administration’s Unilateral Actions

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