Saturday, February 6, 2016
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Inside Washington

What happens in the halls of national government – for better or for worse – can dictate the future course of America. Along with your fellow Prayer Team members, you are to be constantly and fervently interceding for all the men and women who serve in Congress, for your military leaders in the Pentagon, and for the President of the United States, his cabinet and administration.

“Inside Washington” will equip you to do just that … with reports on the nation’s leaders and the decisions they’re considering … or have already made. We’ll examine the implications for the nation, and call you to specific prayer for those needs.

Beware The Lame Duck

Inside Washington

President Obama plans audacious final year

By Jim Ray

You are sitting in your office and the email from Human Resources pops up—it’s one you’ve seen many times before and you know exactly what it means. “Joe Smith” (or whoever,) the email says, “has left the company to pursue other opportunities.” When Joe Smith leaves to “pursue other opportunities,” it means Joe has been terminated. Joe will not be leaving in two weeks, but right now. Joe may well have been escorted out of the building by security and asked never to set foot on the premises again. You have never seen an email that says “We have fired Joe but have asked him to stay on for the next year.” That would potentially be catastrophic. Joe might take all the office supplies, steal company secrets or take a magnet to the computer hard drives.

But in the United States Congress, employees do “stay on” after they have been fired by the voters. They’re called  “lame duck” politicians—that is, legislators who have been voted out of office but have not yet completed their term. And in the case of the President, he is asked to stay on even after his replacement has been chosen. What can he do, while everyone’s attention is focused on the next administration? Quite a lot, it turns out.

The Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1933, was designed to minimize the awkward scenario of politicians continuing to serve after they had been voted out. Prior to that time, in many cases members of Congress served for as long as 13 months after an election, giving them ample time to legislate all sorts of mischief for which they could not be held accountable by voters. A “lame duck” president is not in exactly the same situation because he’s term-limited rather than fired, but the principle is the same: with no more elections to navigate or people to please, he has a long period of free reign to pursue his aims.

In January, President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough promised that Obama would be aggressive in his final year in office. “We’ll do audacious executive action over the course of the rest of the year, I’m confident of that,” he said. Likely, that means the President will use executive orders—unilateral actions that bypass Congress—to push through measures on gun control and immigration reform. He’s also likely to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay that houses terrorists. And, he’s likely to tighten up programs already enacted like the Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. Obamacare – so that they will be very difficult to unwind by the next president and Congress.

Previous Democrat Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton provide the template for President Obama. In his last year in office, Carter issued 24,000 pages of new regulations and Clinton pushed through 26,000 pages. (In addition, Clinton’s team reportedly removed all the “w” keys from the White House typewriters to ensure George W. Bush’s staff would get off to a slow start).

As an illustration of how this might play out, consider that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has repeatedly promised to “repeal every word of Obamacare.” To actually do this would not be at all simple, given that Obamacare regulations now have expanded to over 20,000 pages and are growing daily, with tentacles reaching into Medicare, the Internal Revenue Code, Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration and countless other agencies.

Eliminating all that, combined with perhaps thousands of other regulations President Obama may enact this year, would consume much if not all of a new president’s time and political capital. The incoming chief will want to establish his or her own new agenda—not spend all his or her term unraveling someone else’s legacy.

It is, in short, the old lawyer’s trick of burying an opponent in a blizzard of paperwork to distract them from doing anything meaningful. If you’ve ever wondered why Washington politicians take thousands of pages to write a bill that could be summarized in a paragraph this, at least in part, is the explanation.

Yes, the President may be leaving to “pursue other opportunities,” but it would be a big mistake to think he’s lame.


Jim Ray is a writer, fundraiser and consultant. He and his wife Stacey have two children and reside in Nashville, TN.

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