If it's Monday, it must be time for another unilateral directive from President Barack Obama.
On this occasion, it's a move to help young Americans pay off their college loans. Obama will expand a "Pay as You Earn" program that will allow borrowers to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their monthly income, White House officials say. As of now, the program is only available to those who began borrowing after October 2007 and kept borrowing after October 2011. Obama will allow those who borrowed earlier to participate, which could extend the benefit to millions more people.
In recent months, Obama has taken several executive actions that bypass Congress and collectively strike Republicans as going too far in exercising presidential power. They included a rule announced last week by the Environmental Protection Agency to impose tough restrictions on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants; an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour for workers under new federal contracts, and the deal that swapped five Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was being held abroad by the Taliban. Members of Congress of both parties have objected to how Obama handled the swap because the Senate was not notified in a timely way, as required by law.
Obama says he acted within his authority in all these cases.
Beyond the student loan directive, which he is to announce Monday, Obama also is supporting legislation sponsored by Senate Democrats to reduce student borrowers' debt load in a more comprehensive way. But it's likely that congressional Republicans will block that bill, so Obama decided to go it alone.
"While Congress decides what it's going to do, I will keep doing whatever I can without Congress to help responsible young people pay off their loans," the president said in his weekly address on Saturday.
Obama also plans to discuss his directive in a question-and-answer session about student loan debt on the Tumblr social networking website Tuesday.
Obama has been taking an increasing number of executive actions since he recently hired John Podesta, former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, as a senior adviser. While he was out of government, Podesta was a leading advocate of Obama doing more unilaterally because, Podesta argued, congressional Republicans have blocked so much of Obama's agenda.
There's also a political dimension to what Obama is doing. Young people were an important part of his winning coalition in 2008 and 2012 but polls suggest that their turnout could be much lower in the midterm elections this fall. Actions such as the student loan initiative might generate more turnout by young voters for Obama's fellow Democrats in those midterms, Democratic strategists say.