The machinations in Congress over extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits into 2012 could be rendered moot if Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee gets her way.
Appearing as a guest on Ed Schultz's radio show yesterday, the Texas lawmaker suggested Obama extend both by 60 days through executive order and bypass the GOP-led House. (audio clips after page break)
While Schultz was noncommittal in response, Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein, a Schultz radio guest later in the same hour, questioned whether Jackson Lee's proposal would withstand a legal challenge.
First, here's what a hoarse Jackson Lee said (audio) --
JACKSON LEE: I also said on the floor of the House, Ed, that the president, based upon the 89-person vote (in the Senate), Republicans and Democrats, can move an executive order for 60 days, move an executive order, and continue the unemployment extension and continue the payroll tax and call the House and Senate back in the appropriate time in January or when he desires for us to get to work, use the executive power. He has been, if you will, supported or emboldered (sic) by an 89-vote, 89-person vote in the United States Senate.
SCHULTZ: So you think the president should go executive power here?
JACKSON LEE: I absolutely do.
JACKSON LEE: We are now at the end of a day ...
SCHULTZ: I mean, that is, do other Democrats, say in your caucus, share this ...?
JACKSON LEE: I've been speaking it, I'm going to be calling the White House shortly, our contacts to express that I believe that the ...
SCHULTZ (interrupting again): So he can extend the unemployment benefits and he can continue with the payroll tax cut by executive order?
JACKSON LEE: I believe that based upon the Senate vote, that it was so strong, that his lawyers can review his powers and call this an emergency.
SCHULTZ: Yeah, OK.
JACKSON LEE: And then call us back in January. Now, it is extraordinary, don't get me wrong. But I frankly, I'm feeling the pain. My voice is not evidence, the pain that I am feeling. This is a bad cold if you will.
Several minutes later, Stein expressed his doubts (audio) --
SCHULTZ: Now, Sheila Jackson Lee, congresswoman from Texas, was just on the program talking about, she wants the president to use executive powers and that his attorneys ought to be looking into that with the number of senators that are in favor of doing this. I don't know where it stands right now.
STEIN: I'm not an expert on the reaches of executive powers. I would have to imagine that this probably falls outside their purview. You know, tax and spend perogatives are those of the House and the Senate and executive powers traditionally come in matters of foreign policy. And my guess is that if Obama were to try to do something like that, it would probably have a legal challenge and a solid one at that.
With soulmates like Schultz and Stein hardly doing cartwheels in response, Jackson Lee might find this a tough idea to sell.