It is becoming increasingly clear that President Obama does not approve of the American Founders’ notion that Congress’s role is to pass laws, and the president’s role is to execute them. On the heels of his unilateral decision not to start Obamacare’s employer mandate on the date that the legislation prescribes — a decision that begs the question of whether a Republican president, following Obama’s precedent, could unilaterally decide to gut other parts of Obamacare — Obama is now seeking to raise taxes on all cell phone users, reappropriate the billions collected, and spend it on “a whole new educational ecosystem.” Moreover, he says, “We can do this without Congress.”
The Washington Post writes:
“President Obama liked the idea laid out in a memo from his staff: an ambitious plan to expand high-speed Internet access in schools that would allow students to use digital notebooks and teachers to customize lessons like never before….
“White House senior advisers have described the little-known proposal, announced earlier this summer under the name ConnectEd, as one of the biggest potential achievements of Obama’s second term….
“The effort would cost billions of dollars, and Obama wants to pay for it by raising fees for mobile-phone users. Doing that relies on the Federal Communications Commission [FCC], an independent agency that has the power to approve or reject the plan.”
The FCC is stacked with Obama appointees.
The Post writes, “ConnectEd, which seeks to provide high-speed Internet service to 99 percent of schools within five years, is a case study in how Obama is trying to accomplish a second-term legacy despite Republican opposition in Congress.”
According to the Post’s account, White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, somewhat amazingly, said of the plan, “It’s got a lot of the characteristics of big-vision policy that you really don’t get through legislation anymore.”
The Post continues:
“The cost for the initiative is estimated at $4 billion to $6 billion....”
“A senior administration official said that if the idea had come up during the presidential campaign, it probably would have been abandoned because of the political risk….
“‘Using the FCC as a way to get around Congress to spend money that Congress doesn’t have the political will to spend — I think that’s very scary,’ said Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a Republican former FCC commissioner. ‘Constitutionally, it’s Congress that decides how federal funds should be spent.’”
So, why take such a political risk and invite charges of further violating the Constitution’s separation of powers, which clearly grants Congress the power of the purse? The Post writes:
“Administrative officials argue that ConnectEd would foster a whole new educational ecosystem. ‘It creates a tipping point that leads to new forms of educational content, more affordable educational devices, more teachers being able to use alternative ongoing assessment tools, and kids able to work at their own pace and who can try and try at the privacy of their desks without having to feel embarrassed,’ [Obama’s National Economic Council director Gene] Sperling said.”
The Post reports that, in giving his go-ahead, the president who has talked of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” told his staff, “We are here to do big things — and we can do this without Congress.”