Republican Chris Edwards on Thursday blasted his Democratic congressional opponent Dina Titus for defending President Barack Obama's growing use of executive orders and actions to get around Congress.
Edwards, a tea party-backed naval officer, contended the president is abusing the constitutional separation of powers among the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government by skirting existing laws on everything from immigration to welfare reform.
"If the president can't work and form a consensus with Congress, Dina Titus believes he can do anything he wants," Edwards said in an interview. "When he bypasses Congress, he makes Congress irrelevant. If she wants to be irrelevant, she can be irrelevant anywhere in the country. She doesn't have to go to Congress."
Edwards' comments came a day after Titus defended Obama during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board.
Titus said that as a political scientist, she is disturbed by Obama's expanding use of his presidential authority, but she said he is acting because Republicans in Congress are blocking his agenda.
"I think some of the president's actions have been out of frustration because you can't get anything out of the Congress," said Titus, a former congresswoman who was defeated in her 2010 re-election bid.
Asked whether Obama is setting a dangerous precedent, Titus blamed growing partisanship.
"Well, I think it is dangerous, but I don't think that you can just pin it all on what this president has done," Titus said. "It's a much bigger systematic problem than what this president's done."
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., leads Democrats as the Senate majority leader and promotes the president's agenda. But the House is controlled by Republicans, who won control in 2010, and they mostly oppose Obama.
This year, Titus is running to replace U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is seeking the a Senate seat in a race against U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. After redistricting, the redrawn urban 1st Congressional District in Las Vegas remains a safe haven for Democrats, who hold a 2-to-1 voter registration edge over Republicans.
As a result, the little-known Edwards is a long-shot hope in the House race.
Titus said she supported Obama's executive decision last month to order his administration not to deport millions of people who were brought to this country illegally by their relatives when they were young. Instead, he ordered a new program to offer young adult illegal immigrants who grew up here two-year work permits.
Obama said he took the action because Congress wouldn't pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for young undocumented immigrants raised in the United States. To qualify for citizenship under the act, the youthful applicants would have to attend college or join the U.S. military.
As Obama runs for re-election, he has been taking more executive actions that appeal to voting blocs he needs - such as Hispanics and the young - or to accomplish parts of his agenda that Congress rejects.
Edwards, as a strict constitutionalist and states' rights proponent, said he thinks Obama has gone too far. And he criticized Titus for supporting the president despite her apparent qualms.
"She's wiling to forgo the checks and balances so the president can do something that's so expedient," Edwards said. "We always get ourselves in trouble when we start to abandon our constitutional principles. We have to make sure it works right, not that it works easy. Why is she even running for office if she wants to abdicate her role?"
Edwards said Titus might not be so understanding if Republican Mitt Romney wins the presidency in 2012.
Presidents from both parties have made liberal use of executive orders and actions in the past to get around Congress. Obama has signed more than 130 executive orders since he took office in 2009. Former President George W. Bush signed nearly 300 executive orders, and former President Bill Clinton signed more than 360 - more than twice as many as former President George H.W. Bush and about the same as former President Ronald Reagan. Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served from 1933 to 1945, signed a record 3,738.
The executive order list doesn't show the full picture, however, because some executive actions taken by presidents aren't official executive orders. Obama's young immigrant decision, for example, was not a formal executive order.
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.