POLITICS: PennAve

Chuck Grassley demands legal arguments behind Obama's 'pen and phone' strategy

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Barack Obama,Executive Branch,Eric Holder,PennAve,Chuck Grassley

A top Senate Republican wants access to the legal opinions that justify President Obama's plans to step up his use of executive orders.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Monday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to disclose to the public its opinions and analyses of the president's executive orders.

Grassley’s request comes a week after Obama promised “a year of action,” which he would undertake even if Congress does not vote in favor of his proposals.

“In his State of the Union address earlier this week, the President made plain his intention to implement his agenda through aggressive use of these orders, whether or not the Congress and the American people agree,” Grassley wrote to Holder. “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 first prodded Holder about the OLC opinions at a hearing last week.

Holder suggested that disclosure would inhibit “full conversations … about these matters where OLC lawyers write both pros and cons about a particular issue.”

But Holder nonetheless promised Grassley to find ways to provide the information to lawmakers and the public. The OLC is required to review executive orders by the president to ensure they do not violate the Constitution.

Grassley’s letter on Monday is aimed at ensuring Holder’s cooperation because in past instances, lawmaker requests made to Holder during congressional hearings have gone unfulfilled.

Grassley told Holder in the letter that he wants the disclosures from the OLC to be handed over simultaneously with each executive order from Obama.

“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,” Grassley said. “As well as to better understand, and if necessary to challenge, the legal basis upon which they are purportedly issued.”

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