Grassley demands legal defense for Obama's executive actions

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee called Monday for the Obama administration to lay clear its legal case in defense of the president’s plan to tackle policy goals through executive actions.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking the Justice Department to disclose by Valentine’s Day all of its “opinions, analyses and conclusions” in support of the president’s authority to rely so heavily on the power of his office.

“I am gravely concerned that the system of checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution is threatened by the President’s determination to take unilateral action if he cannot persuade Congress and the American people of the merits of his ideas,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

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In last week’s State of the Union address, Obama made clear his intent to use administrative power to tackle an array of goals this year, including greater income equality, improved job training services and components of his climate change initiative.

The president’s critics have seized on the plan, saying it is the job of Congress to write laws — and the executive branch to carry them out. Obama, Grassley charges, has shirked the Constitution’s provision requiring the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

He is asking for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to turn over all documents related to Obama’s decision move on issues in lieu of congressional action.

“This specific measure of transparency will allow both Congress and the American people to know whether these orders are being subjected to a rigorous constitutional review at the Department of Justice, as well as to better understand — and if necessary to challenge — the legal basis upon which they are purportedly issued,” Grassley wrote.

The letter comes days after a group of House Republicans renewed their call for a federal lawsuit challenging a host of the president’s prior executive actions on constitutional grounds.