Former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta, now the head of the Center for American Progress, called on President Obama to push forward with his agenda using federal agencies and executive branch power Tuesday, even though Democrats were dealt a blow in the recent midterm elections. Podesta said the American people want the president to move forward with his agenda.
“I think most of the conversation since the election has been about how President Obama adjusts to the new situation on Capitol Hill,” Podesta said. “While that’s an important conversation, it simply ignores the president’s ability to use all levels of his power and authority to move the country forward.”
Citing his experience in Clinton’s White House after the GOP House takeover of 1994, Podesta said Obama’s administration “can and should take” the specific measures detailed in a report released by the Center for American Progress, utilizing all the tools at its disposal to circumvent Congress in a way to keep his agenda moving forward.
“One of the best ways for the Obama administration to achieve results of that nature, in the short term, is through substantial executive authority to make and implement policy,” Podesta said. “As noted in the Constitution and the laws of the United States give the president the ability and the responsibility to act as the chief executive using authorities granted to all presidents such as executive orders, rule-makings, agency management and public-private partnerships.”
Even though he said that he disagreed with why former President George W. Bush went about using them, he defended how the former president used executive actions in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
“No one can doubt that President Bush, also, when he took office in 2001, made extensive use of his executive authorities,” Podesta said. “Sometimes I agreed with it, often I didn’t, but he was able to move the policy agenda forward using executive authority.”
In an April 2005 speech about the importance of checks and balances in government, however, Podesta opposed the president expanding his executive boundaries.
“I’m convinced that Americans want the president and the Congress to work together to ensure that judges who populate the federal bench and who serve with life tenure are highly qualified men and women whose views are within the constitutional mainstream,” Podesta said in the April 2005 speech, according to a transcript obtained by The Daily Caller. “The filibuster is a means towards that end. Why? Because it encourages presidents to consult with the Senate and to name moderate, mainstream nominees who will judge cases fairly and without bias, and who will have no difficulty garnering the votes of 60 senators that they need to be confirmed. By removing the safeguard offered by the filibuster, the nuclear option would seriously and perhaps irreparably damage an institution that has functioned since its inception under customs and traditions that ensure an atmosphere of careful deliberation and mutual respect.”
Podesta’s staff wouldn’t return TheDC’s request for comment on his change of heart regarding the president’s use of executive power.