Obama threatens vetoes of bills limiting power

The White House on Wednesday threatened to veto a pair of Republican bills that would impose new limits on the president's executive powers.

The Enforce the Law Act, sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), would allow the House or Senate to file a lawsuit against the president for failing to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Under the law, the challenges would go to a three-judge federal district court panel, with appeals fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.

Gowdy told The Washington Times that President Obama's "disregard for the law" had "reached an unprecedented level from a constitutional perspective."

This bill "will give Congress the authority to defend this branch of government as the framers and our fellow citizens would expect," he said.

But the White House said the administration "strongly opposes" the legislation, which it said violates the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

"Congress ordinarily has the power to define the bounds of the Executive Branch's enforcement authority under particular statutes, and persons who claim to be harmed by the Executive Branch's actions may challenge them as inconsistent with the governing statute. But the power the bill purports to assign to Congress to sue the President over whether he has properly discharged his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed exceeds constitutional limitations," the White House said.

The White House also threatened a veto of a bill offered by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) that would require the attorney general to report to Congress whenever a federal official opts not to enforce a section of a law.

Republicans have voiced outrage over the Obama administration's decision to use prosecutorial discretion to limit deportations of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The Justice Department also opted against defending the Defense of Marriage Act before it was overturned by the Supreme Court and has changed prosecutorial priorities on certain drug laws.

“President Obama has not only failed to uphold several of our nation’s laws, he has vowed to continue to do so in order to enact his unpopular agenda,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The President assured the public that his administration would be the most transparent in history, and while the President has fallen woefully short on this promise, my bill will be a step in the right direction. The American people deserve to know exactly which laws the Obama Administration is refusing to enforce and why.”

But the White House said DeSantis's bill would "inordinately expand" existing reporting requirements and require testimony any time a federal agency made a formal or informal policy about enforcing legal provisions.

"Federal agencies are continually engaged in the process of determining how to concentrate limited enforcement resources most effectively," the White House said. "The vastly expanded reporting scheme required by the bill would be unduly burdensome and would place the Attorney General in the unprecedented position of having to be kept informed of and report on enforcement decisions made by every other Federal agency."

Along with the veto threats, White House officials announced that Obama would use his regulatory authority to expand which employees were eligible for overtime pay protection, a move that could impact millions of retail, fast-food and custodial workers.

That was the latest in a series of executive actions undertaken by the president as part of his "pen and phone" initiative, which the White House says is intended to highlight congressional intransigence.

But Republicans have blasted the moves, accusing the president of abuse of power.

"We’re going to watch very closely, because there’s a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him, and following the Constitution is the basis for House Republicans," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said earlier this year.