White House Advisers Searching for Ways to ‘Bypass Congress Altogether’

congressPresident Bush is “struggling for relevancy in the same way many other second-term presidents have,” Newsweek observed recently. “But Bush’s burden seems much harder than other presidents in recent memory.” 71 percent of Americans see Bush as a “lame duck” president, and 58 percent “wish the Bush presidency were simply over.”

U.S. News reports that conservatives have seen the writing on the wall and are now advising Bush to “jump start” his final two years by pushing through as much as he can by executive fiat:

With President Bush unable to get much traction so far in moving his agenda through Congress or in improving his job-approval ratings with the public, White House advisers are casting about for ways to jump-start his final two years, including issuing executive orders to get things done without having to ask for support from the Democratic-controlled Congress.

“He should get a list of the executive orders for the last 200 years, as a guide, and choose what he wants to do,” says an informal Bush adviser. One proposal that fiscal conservatives are pushing is to halve all capital-gains taxes, as a way to encourage investment and job creation.

Some conservatives argue that even if Bush somehow regains his political footing, whatever he might work out with the Democratic majority in Congress wouldn’t be very good legislation, so he should go the executive-order route and bypass Congress altogether.

Bush has already begun to implement the strategy. Last month, Bush signed Executive Order 12866 to put political appointees — rather than experienced civil servants — in charge of regulatory agencies. The order would “give the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.” Columbia Law School professor Peter L. Strauss said the move “achieves a major increase in White House control over domestic government. … Having lost control of Congress, the president is doing what he can to increase his control of the executive branch.”