It appears that President Obama is set to undermine Congress and the Constitution by, yet again, taking executive action on an issue: In this case, the right to bear arms.
Of course, there is not much Obama can do in this area without congressional cooperation to undermine our civil rights, but it appears that won’t stop him from trying. The Republican Congress, unfortunately, cannot stop from issuing executive orders, but they can take a number of steps to show that they’re the party that fully supports the Second Amendment. Some of these responses are purely symbolic; others might be able to keep the president from taking action or keep those actions from going into effect.
Groups that support the right to bear arms can immediately file suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of any executive orders President Obama issues on gun control. It’s unclear exactly what actions Obama will take, but he shouldn’t be taking any steps on such a fundamental issue without working with Congress. After they file legal challenges to his actions, Republican leaders in Congress and all presidential candidates should make it clear that they support them. The presidential candidates can, in addition, make it clear that they would revoke any such executive orders on their first day in office (indeed, most already have).
Republican leadership in Congress can do more than just offer words of support to the legal case. They can make it clear to the White House that taking any executive action regarding guns will come at an extreme political cost. Unfortunately, Congress recently passed a budget deal to keep the government open through 2017 and the federal government is unlikely to hit its debt ceiling until November, so the GOP has lost those as leverage. However, they can make it clear to Obama that if he unilaterally takes action on gun control, then any other legislation he hopes to pass in the next year will go nowhere.
Republicans also have the investigatory power of Congress at their full disposal, and they should use it. The relevant committees in the House and the Senate should begin holding hearings examining the new policies, how they were developed, and who was consulted. They can subpoena Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other administration officials, asking them tough questions under oath. That could shed a light on the process used to determine that this action was necessary, since the White House failed to consult on the issue with Congress in any way, shape, or form.
The GOP can also take symbolic actions to show their displeasure with the president. The annual State of the Union address, for example, is the prime forum for the president to lay out his agenda — but a live speech is not required. If Congress wishes, they don’t have to extend the invitation to the president to address them in person — or they could schedule it at any time they like, rather than one chosen by the administration.
The Republican National Committee has a step it could take as well. CNN is hosting a town hall event with President Obama on gun control. The network is also still scheduled to host another Republican presidential debate. If CNN wants to help the administration push a gun control agenda, the RNC shouldn’t let the network host another debate.
Republicans clearly oppose the gun control agenda, but if Obama is going to take executive actions on guns, the GOP should do more than just loudly disagree. Rather, they should consider a more serious response to any attempt to impose gun control by executive fiat, making it clear to the entire country that they don’t support any attempts to undermine our constitutional rights.