Reagan to Use Executive Orders to Bypass Congress
With 17 months of his presidency remaining, Ronald Reagan will bank on executive orders and judicial action to implement social policies that he cannot persuade Congress to enact, Gary L. Bauer, the President’s chief domestic policy adviser, declared Thursday.
Bauer, the feisty attorney Reagan named to push his social issue agenda, said the President may accomplish some of his goals in such areas as abortion and pornography through a series of executive orders and by his appointment of conservative judges to the federal judiciary, including his nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court.
“With a hostile Congress that doesn’t show much sign of coming toward us on some of these issues, it behooves us to take the initiative when we can take it,” Bauer said.
There are a number of things “the President can unilaterally do,” Bauer said, as evidenced by the plan Reagan announced three weeks ago to curb federal funding for organizations and groups that support abortion.
The plan will drastically restrict the ability of 4,500 federally funded family-planning clinics to give their patients information about abortion. Critics contend that it violates the intent of Congress by using regulations to achieve a purpose Congress rejected and violates the First Amendment by impeding the flow of information.
Bauer, 41, relatively little-known in his earlier Administration assignments, may become an increasingly influential figure in the remaining months of the Reagan White House. He shares many social and political beliefs held by the President and is regarded as an effective advocate of such conservative views on many key issues.
Interviewed at a breakfast session with reporters and editors of The Times’ Washington Bureau, Bauer said executive orders may also be used to combat pornography and that his staff is studying a proposed executive order that would ban the sale of pornographic material on post exchanges at military bases.
The issue raises obvious constitutional questions, he said, and is being studied because “we want to make sure whatever we do is legal.” Bauer said some spot checks made by outside groups disclosed “some really remarkably inappropriate material being sold in PXs.” He did not identify the groups.
“I guess the analogy I would use (is): Does anybody think it would be acceptable if a PX sold material that was racially bigoted? Let’s say we found that a PX had material in it by the klan calling certain races various things. I don’t think anybody would bat an eye if the President issued an executive order saying that we will not exploit racial differences in government bookstores on Army bases. It seems to me that it’s not that far a step to say nor will we sell material that is offensive to women,” he said.
Opposition in Congress
Pornography is the one social issue where the Administration plans to introduce legislation even though heavy opposition can be expected in Congress. Bauer said legislation will be introduced to “try to implement” the report proposing restrictions on distribution of pornography that Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III delivered last year.
Bauer, a short and round-faced man, is a self-described “Reagan true believer,” who served as undersecretary of education before being appointed assistant to the President for policy development last Jan. 30.
At the Education Department and the White House, he has endeared himself to the Republican right wing and incurred the wrath of the Democratic left wing by fighting tenaciously for the President’s social issues agenda and blaming liberals for many of the social problems plaguing the nation today.
Study of Family Life
At the Education Department, he headed a 22-member interdepartmental group that studied American family life for seven months and concluded that “two liberal decades” had resulted in increased crime, illegitimate birth, drug use, teen-age pregnancy, divorce, poverty and sexually transmitted disease. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), an expert on welfare policy, called the report “less a policy paper than a tantrum” and charged: “They’re not writing from facts. This is just ideology.”
In The Times’ interview, Bauer said the White House is optimistic that the Senate will confirm Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court despite heavy opposition by labor, women’s and civil rights groups.
With Bork, Reagan has appointed a judge who already has publicly described some of the key Supreme Court rulings on abortion, including the landmark Roe vs. Wade case that legalized a woman’s right to an abortion, as wrongly decided.
But Bauer said that, if the Democratic-controlled Senate rejects Bork because of his views on social issues, “it would be a defeat for us but a terrible political mistake for the Democratic Party.” He noted that Bork’s legal qualifications have not been challenged.
‘Several Nose Counts’
Bauer said he had seen “several nose counts” by various Administration people that “clearly show 50-plus votes” in the Senate for confirmation of Bork. But he acknowledged it will be much more difficult for the Administration to come up with the 60 votes needed to break off a filibuster if Democratic opponents should resort to that tactic.
Republican opponents in the Senate of then-Justice Abe Fortas used that tactic in 1968 to prevent President Lyndon B. Johnson from elevating him to chief justice.
On the issue of AIDS, Bauer said the Administration sees no need for presidential orders to combat the spread of the disease. And, despite reports that many experts believe that 1988 federal funding for AIDS prevention programs is too low, he said: “We feel fairly comfortable about our budget requests in this area.
“I don’t think there’s any inclination to pinch pennies on research to try to find a cure for the disease,” he said, “and I think the budget requests for the new fiscal year will demonstrate that.”
Opposes Koop Proposals
Bauer opposes proposals by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to combat AIDS by providing sex education starting “at the lowest possible grade” and by counseling young people to use condoms if they are sexually active.
It sends a mixed message, Bauer said, if “on the one hand you tell a child don’t do something and, on the other hand, you say to the child if you’re going to do it, here’s the way to escape the consequences of your action.”
Declaring that he does not accept “a generally believed cultural phenomenon that forever our children will be sexually active at an early age,” he said: “I’ve got a 9-year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl, and I do not believe that it is written in the stars that when they are 14 or 15 they’re going to be hopping in bed with the local football hero.
“I think that, if parents do the right kind of job and if the culture supports what parents are trying to do, then you have a reasonable expectation that your daughters may even do something old-fashioned enough like saving themselves for their husband.”
Health Insurance Bill
On other issues, Bauer said that:
--While the Administration is still willing to work out a compromise on the catastrophic health insurance bill passed overwhelmingly by the House, the President is inclined to veto the measure if it passes the Senate without cost provisions’ being substantially reduced.
--The Administration dropped Reagan’s campaign pledge to eliminate the Education Department because it could find no more than seven or eight senators who were willing to endorse the idea and “decided instead to make sure that as long as we’re in office anyway that the department runs like a Reagan Department of Education, that is, to emphasize back-to-basic values, that sort of thing.”
--He would oppose increasing federal funding to help border states such as California and Texas cope with the additional burden of providing services for illegal immigrants who are becoming legal under the new immigration law. In the long run, he said, the border states “are going to be helped a lot more by a vibrant long-term economic expansion than they will be by whether one categorical program in Washington has a couple billion more dollars in it or not.”