A Case of Presidential Intimidation

During an interview on the Today Show, President Obama disclosed that he had an unusual meeting. He met with the director of the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”), Doug Elmendorf (who, by the way, was appointed by the Democratic leadership in Congress). This meeting comes on the heels of a recent report that said that the President’s health care proposal would not result in any cost savings and other reports that say that the Congressional healthcare proposals would be in excess of one trillion dollars.

The CBO was created by Congress as a means to provide oversight over the executive branch and the executive branch’s use of the budget. The CBO is responsible for producing for Congress an annual economic forecast, reviewing the President’s annual budget submission, and scoring all spending legislation. The CBO, therefore, exists to be independent from the executive branch.

Why, then, would the President of the United States feel the need to meet with the director of the Congressional Budget Office? Maybe it was a blatant, inappropriate, and unprecedented attempt to bully what is supposedly an independent and nonpartisan body that does not report to the executive branch of government with the intent that it become submissive to the Obama Administration. There has been no prior report of a sitting American President meeting with an incumbent CBO director.

If President Obama needed clarification on CBO scoring, he should have worked through Congress to get it. Alternatively, he could have asked his Office of Management and Budget for an analysis of the CBO scoring (in fact, the current OMB director is the immediate past director of CBO). The demanding of a face to face meeting with the CBO director is inappropriate at best and outright intimidation at worst. The President’s actions compromise the entire process of legislative oversight and threaten the independence of the CBO from the current Administration. You would think that an independent CBO is essential for Congress, at least if it is interested in independent analysis.

In giving Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt, I would like to think that this meeting was called out of ignorance of our constitutional system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, it appears more like an attempt to browbeat the Congressional Budget Office into a more sympathetic scoring of his ambitious, and misguided, agenda. Congress has an obligation to all of us to quickly and forcefully to remind the President about the boundaries of executive power.


The Daily Pander said...

Congress should push back. Congress won't, but it should. Executive usurpation of legislative power is only a problem if a Republican is in the White House.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know what happened at the meeting, you could read Elmendorf's blog post.


The Daily Pander said...

Just like Tom Hagen and Jack Woltz only had dinner.

The whole point of the meeting is the signaling value and what's NOT said. And if BHO made an overt threat (which he would never be dumb enough to do) would Elmendorf put in in a blog?

The act of inviting Elmendorf is intimidation enough.