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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Statement on Obama's executive orders relies on incorrect premise

The statement

"In the last three years alone, 13 times, the Supreme Court, unanimously, 9-0, including all of the president's liberal picks, have struck down the president's executive orders."

Sean Spicer, RNC spokesman, July 6 on CNN's State of the Union

The ruling

This was a bit of deja vu for us. Just one week earlier, we heard a very similar claim from Rep. Bob Goodlatte. We rated it False.

Goodlatte claimed that the Supreme Court decision in National Labor Relations Board vs. Noel Canning was "the 13th time the Supreme Court has voted 9-0 that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority."

Spicer's statement relies on the same incorrect premise as Goodlatte's comment, and takes it a step further. Let's explain why.

Goodlatte provided us a list of the cases he was referring to. We reviewed them and had several issues. For starters, nine of the 13 cases actually originated when President George W. Bush was in office.

Obama's Justice Department in many of the cases handled the appellate process and ultimately defended the actions to the Supreme Court. But that's commonplace, experts we spoke with said.

Only one of the 13 cases actually had to do directly with Obama's overreach: National Labor Relations Board vs. Noel Canning. In that case, decided in June, the Supreme Court said unanimously that Obama went too far when he appointed members to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate wasn't technically in session.

But even that case had nothing to do with what Spicer said on CNN. Spicer claimed that the court has unanimously rejected "the president's executive orders" 13 times in three years.

Executive orders are official actions taken by the president directing the federal government and bureaucracies. They carry the power of law, but can be revoked or amended by future administrations and are limited in scope.

It does not appear that any of these cases actually have to do with executive orders issued by Obama.

In the case concerning the National Labor Relations Board, for example, the issue was the president's power to make appointments. There was no executive order issued that named individuals to positions to the board.

In United States vs. Arizona, Obama's justice department took Arizona to court over the state's tough immigration laws. But it wasn't the result of an executive order from Obama.

In McCullen vs. Coakley, the Obama administration was not even a plaintiff or a defendant in the case. The case was a challenge to a Massachusetts law that put no-protest zones around abortion clinics. While the Obama administration filed a brief supporting the Massachusetts law, no executive order was filed or challenged.

We rate the statement Pants on Fire.


PolitiFact: Statement on Obama's executive orders relies on incorrect premise 07/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 11, 2014 5:45pm]
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