What Executive Actions Earned Obama a Lump of Coal From Republicans?

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

It’s clear that as 2014 comes to a close, Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama will have vastly different feelings on how each has utilized its year. President Obama has made it clear he considers Congress to have had a gridlocked and ineffective year, and on more than one occasion he’s suggested they’re incapable or unwilling to contend with important issues.

When he recently spoke on his immigration action, for example, he brought up Congress quite a few times, saying “pass a bill … If you want Congress to be involved in this process, I welcome it … we just need Congress to work with us to pass a common-sense law … Americans are tired of gridlock.” His message is pretty clear, and it’s highly critical — which makes sense when you consider Congress’s position on Obama’s actions: He’s being sued.

Republicans argue that Obama has overstepped the boundaries of his executive office and abused his power with over-dependence on executive action that surpasses his legal capabilities. Clearly the two have been at each other’s governmental throats over the last year (at least). So it’s hardly surprising the president’s “Year of Action” is in keeping with that sentiment. It lists off a number of major actions taken by the president unilaterally, as well as red banner additions, like the example below, describing what the president would still like to see from Congress.

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In last year’s final press conference I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America, and it has been,” said Obama.  Whether you consider his actions oversteps, or important and necessary steps, let’s take a look at some of the more controversial things the president got done this year, in honor of the holiday, the New Year, and the impending lawsuit.

1. Minimum wage and overtime

Most of the items on this list — only a small selection of the executive actions taken and as with most things in politics each is controversial to someone – are controversial because they’re a stopgap measure enacted after Congress failed to hear or pass a bill the president was in favor of. The federal minimum wage was upped, and overtime rules were changed for those employees within the president’s power to affect — however, he had to fall back on encouraging state action after the national minimum wage failed to be raised despite his encouragements.

2. Equal pay

After the Equal Pay bill failed to pass through Congress, Obama chose to make it illegal for employers to punish their workers for comparing payment. Additionally, data was required to be collected by federal contractors for the sake of research, meaning sex and race were required areas.


In Michigan, the state House recently passed the Religious Freedom measure, well-known to be anti-LGBT. Clearly the states are not in the same place as the executive, which is why President Obama’s executive order banning federal employers from discriminating against members of the LGBT community was frowned on by some. 

4. Immigration

The executive action on immigration hardly needs comment, it’s been such an intensely disagreed upon subject. Prior to the president taking action, many Republicans warned him against reforming immigration on his own, threatening that the coming year would be that much more difficult as far as compromises go if he acted now. Obama argued he’d waited on Congress long enough, and put money toward border protection, passed rules on deportation, and allowed certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S..

5. Unemployment aid

Congress did not chose to prolong the emergency funds for unemployed Americans, and as a result President Obama made an effort to get companies to join onto his plan for “best practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed.” While hardly a guaranteed plan in terms of effectiveness, the White House press statement points to 300 companies involved.

President Obama’s list includes 35 items, many of them far less problematic between parties than those listed above, but it’s clear based on some of the holiday “cheer” coming out of the legislature that all will not be forgiven for 2015. For example, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shared Representative Mike Kelly’s (R-Pa.) Republican Address (shown below) on Facebook, saying, “Thinking about giving President Obama a lump of coal for Christmas? So is Representative Mike Kelly.” The video basically entails a rather canned joke about Republican annoyance with Obama, with a convenient prop for discussion of the coal industry. Apparently neither side of the gridlock is feeling terribly forgiving this holiday season, whether it’s coal or bright red to-do-list-banners.

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