WASHINGTON -- Since Election Day, President Barack Obama has appointed 56 people to boards, commissions and offices.
He has reduced the prison sentences of 79 federal inmates. He has handed out the nation's highest civilian honor to 21 people who he said personally made an impact on his life.
And he has issued rules, regulations and policies several times a week.
In the final weeks before Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes over, Obama is trying to put the people and policies in place that he wants to outlast his presidency.
Every president tries to push through last-minute policies before his time in office comes to a close. But this year special-interest groups are pushing Obama to do all he can, not just because the president-elect is of a different party but also because few people know what Trump will do.
"People are, as you can imagine -- they are getting quite desperate," said Rena Steinzor, a member of the Center for Progressive Reform, a liberal advocacy group, who is pressing Obama to act.
With six weeks remaining, their to-do list for Obama is long.
They want him to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political donations. They want him to pardon immigrants in the country illegally and direct federal employees to quickly process applications for immigrants who came into the United States illegally as children. And they want him to make good on his campaign pledge to close the prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
No one disputes that Obama has the authority to do what he is doing, but Trump supporters don't think he should be doing it.
"There's a few weeks left. The voters have spoken," said Diane Katz, a senior research fellow in regulatory policy the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "Someone who is more humble or respectful might say 'they made a choice different than me' and allow the new administration to do it."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest pushed back on that notion, saying Obama is president until Jan. 20 and that the administration is engaged in "a continuous and persistent effort to complete the work that's already been started."
In the month since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, Obama has:
• Appointed people to a number of boards and commissions, including the American Battle Monuments Commission, United States Air Force Academy's board of visitors, the Pacific Salmon Commission and National Council on Disability. Some are new appointments; some are renewals.
• Granted a record number of commutations to federal inmates as part of an initiative announced in 2014 to reduce the sentences of nonviolent drug dealers to a sentence they likely would have gotten under today's more lenient sentencing guidelines.
• Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 21 more recipients.
• Finalized rules to determine whether schools were succeeding or failing under the sweeping Every Student Succeeds Act; released the next five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing, which blocks drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic; and denied a permit for a pipeline to run through North Dakota, a victory for local American Indians.
"It's his job," said Carmel Martin, a former Obama appointee who is now executive vice president of policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. "I think it's ... not just appropriate but necessary for the current president to keep moving forward. President Obama is trying to leave the house in good working order."
Trump won't be able to reverse Obama's actions easily.
He can change Obama's executive actions with a quick stroke of the pen. But rule changes require justification following a Reagan-era court case mandating that regulation changes aren't done on a whim. Many of the appointments are five to seven years and require Senate confirmation.
"When the new president gets in there and sees what it takes to change -- or has to pay the price to change it -- it may take longer," said George Edwards, a presidential scholar at Texas A&M University who wrote the book Overreach, analyzing presidential leadership during the Obama presidency.
Still, Obama must avoid pushing out last-minute actions subject to a rarely used law, the Congressional Review Act, designed to prevent so-called midnight regulations.
House Republicans recently sent a letter to Obama administration officials -- similar to a request from Democrats to the outgoing George W. Bush administration in 2008 -- asking that they not try to push new regulations before leaving office.
Some of the special-interest groups urging Obama to act know that whatever he does could end up in court, but they don't mind because at least that provides a chance at maintaining the action. "If you don't even try, you don't get there," Steinzor said.
SundayMonday on 12/11/2016
Print Headline: Obama continues policies, appointments