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Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas walked out midway through last night’s State of the Union address.
He issued a statement on Facebook (and over the course of multiple tweets) that read, in part:
“Tonight I left early after hearing how the President is further abusing his Constitutional powers. I could not bear to watch as he continued to cross the clearly-defined boundaries of the Constitutional separation of powers.”
“Even worse, Obama has openly vowed to break his oath of office and begin enacting his own brand of law through executive decree. This is a wholesale violation of his oath of office and a disqualifying offense.”
Stockman joins Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti to discuss the president’s use of executive orders and why he walked out of the speech.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
Well, President Obama gave a shoutout to the governor of Kentucky, but he struck his toughest tone last night when he talked about using executive orders to circumvent a gridlocked Congress. He said the question for every senator and representative is whether they are going to help or hinder the country's progress.
(SOUNDBITE OF STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do.
CHAKRABARTI: Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas was in the House chamber last night, and joins us. And Congressman, after hearing that part of the president's address, you got up and walked out. Is that right?
REP. STEVE STOCKMAN: Right, and acting unilaterally, without Congress, is not the concept of what our Founding Fathers envisioned. And I had hoped he would reach across the aisles and - especially in his final years - to make a difference.
CHAKRABARTI: Let's talk more about that in a moment. But I do want to read a tweet here that you sent out after you left the House chamber last night, where you tweeted that President Obama has openly vowed to break his oath of office and begin enacting his own brand of law through executive decree.
But I was looking at the past four or five presidents of the United States, and it seems as if Ronald Reagan issued 213 executive orders in his first term. President Clinton issued 200 in his first term; George W. Bush, 173; President Obama, 147. So it seems as if presidents, regardless of the party they're from, like and use executive orders. So what's different this time around?
STOCKMAN: Well, and I don't recall the scholar, but he's actually a liberal scholar who is articulating that the executive orders under this administration are much more broad, and also in violation of the Constitution, where executive orders are exclusively meant for the Executive Branch. That's why they're called executive orders.
CHAKRABARTI: Do you have a specific example of any executive order that President Obama has issued that you think is unconstitutional, a specific one?
STOCKMAN: Yeah, we have - actually, we're drawing up a list of that, and without getting into the legalese, because we - I don't want to - someone said, well, you look pretty rash. And I said no, we've looked at this. We're going to actually articulate that and bring in legal scholars, including some of our friends on the left.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, let's talk a little more specifically about one of the executive orders that President Obama went to lengths to discuss last night in the State of the Union, and that's the one...
STOCKMAN: Minimum wage?
CHAKRABARTI: Minimum wage, exactly; that he's going to sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage for new federal contractors. Well, what do you think about that one?
STOCKMAN: I don't feel that that's actually a violation of executive orders. But in issuing an executive order for that, I think it's going to have a minimal effect, and I don't have a problem, necessarily, with that. But what he's advocating in doing, in a broad brush, is he says he's going to use it much more aggressively. And I'm thinking that he's opening the door for more administratively - things that go beyond the scope of what his authority is.
CHAKRABARTI: You know, it seemed last night that the president was saying he may use more executive orders in these coming months because he doesn't feel as if he's making any headway with Congress. I mean, he actually went so far as to say, you know, he would like the Republican Party to say explicitly what it stands for, rather than what it simply stands - what it's against.
STOCKMAN: That's political talk. There's plenty of published laws that have been introduced and offered that - see, that's one of the things that drives the Republican nuts, is him saying we haven't offered anything, when there's a clear body of work that we have offered.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, finally, Congressman Stockman, if I may ask, even though you had left the House chamber, as you know, President Obama closed his State of the Union Address last night by honoring Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who served 10 tours of duty and was gravely wounded in Afghanistan.
And the president quoted Sgt. 1st Class Remsburg, who said: "Nothing in life that's worth anything is easy." And the president seemed to be saying that those things that aren't easy, but are still worth it, include governing America in a very rancorous political environment. So, I wonder what lesson you draw from that.
STOCKMAN: In every generation, you're going to have disagreements, and we have to look overall and say, you know what? We're not perfect, but we're going to keep trying, both sides keep trying. And I'd like to see more personal contact with the leadership. And I think that's one thing we need to actually bring back, is more interaction between individuals of either party.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, Steve Stockman represents Texas' 36th Congressional District. Congressman Stockman, thank you so much for joining us today.
STOCKMAN: Thank you. It's been an honor. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.