Pubdate: Tue, 04 Feb 2014
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Stephen Dinan
Page: A4


Backers Feel Left Off To-Do List

President Obama may have raised expectations too high when he vowed
last week to take unilateral action to get around Congress - since his
speech he has been flooded with requests and complaints from some of
his staunchest supporters wondering why he left their issues out of
his executive to-do list.

Immigrant rights advocates say he should have extended his existing
non-deportation policy to cover all illegal immigrants, while
marijuana advocates said he could follow through on his recent
statements on pot by unilaterally taking the drug off the strictest
tier of controlled substances.

Gay rights groups said Mr. Obama could have taken the same steps for
them that he did on the minimum wage, issuing an executive order
banning federal contractors from discriminating against gays in the

Cesar Vargas, co-director of the Dream Action Coalition, which
advocates for young adult illegal immigrants, said Mr. Obama was
picking and choosing, and said the groups involved have taken notice.

"It's a lack of vision," Mr. Vargas said. "He's taking the easy ones -
'OK, I'll do unemployment benefits, OK, I'll do some environmental
[ones].' But on major consequences of executive policy, he is backing

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama laid out about a
half-dozen areas where he said he wanted to see Congress act, but said
if they didn't, he could take interim steps on his own.

A key move was to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to
$10.10 an hour. He said he wants Congress to raise the national wage
that high, but said in the meantime, he has the power to set rates for
those companies that bid for federal work.

In the days since the speech, the White House has said the list Mr.
Obama went through isn't final, and that there could be others he adds

But there are some areas where the president has previously ruled out
taking unilateral action, even where his supporters say he has the
authority. The non-discrimination order for gay workers is one of those.

"The president believes that an Employment Non-Discrimination Act
signed into law is the right way to go here, and we strongly support
and put a lot of energy behind that effort," said White House press
secretary Jay Carney.

On immigration, the division between Mr. Obama and activists has been
clear for months. They would like him to expand the non-deportation
policy he issued last year for young adults, known as Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to now include all illegal immigrants.

Mr. Obama, though, has said he doesn't believe he has the authority to
go that far.

Activists say it's the same excuse he used for the first three years
of his presidency, when he wouldn't issue the young adult policy. In
the midst of his 2012 re-election campaign, when he was struggling to
win Hispanics' support, Mr. Obama had a change of heart and decided he
did actually have the authority.

"The legal authority is there," Mr. Vargas said. "It's simply

On marijuana, pot activists said the president tied himself in knots
last week when he told CNN in an interview that it's up to Congress to
take the drug off the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances.

"It's not something by ourselves that we start changing," the
president told the network. "No, there are laws undergirding those

But Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said that's wrong. He
said it's up to federal agencies to decide how to classify drugs, and
said Mr. Obama could begin that process today.

"It's very unfortunate that President Obama appears to want to pass
the buck to Congress when it comes to marijuana laws, especially when
his State of the Union speech this week focused on actions he can take
to move America forward without having to wait for the legislative
branch to get its act together," Mr. Angell said.
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