The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee charged Sunday that President Obama is “trampling upon” the constitutional authority granted to Congress, as he defended Speaker John Boehner’s decision to file a lawsuit against the president for allegedly exceeding his authority…
“We … have the power to bring causes of action when we believe that the president of the United States is exceeding his authority and is trampling upon Article 1 of the Constitution,” [Bob] Goodlatte said. “To me, it makes a whole lot of sense to do this.”
After a stinging defeat for the Obama administration in the Supreme Court last week, a top House Democrat on Sunday blamed Republicans for forcing the president to go around Congress over the last few years.
“These are all things that the American public wants to see, and the president’s saying to Congress, ‘If you’re not going to do your job of actually passing laws that make those things happen…I’m going to do what I can within the confines of the law to make this work,’” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said in a heated interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
A former White House lawyer said Sunday that a proposed lawsuit against President Obama is nothing more than a political stunt in an election year.
“To say its frivolous is an understatement,” Kathy Ruemmler said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”…
She also said the fact that Mr. Boehner has yet to designate a specific action over which to sue demonstrates that the lawsuit is just for show.
“To come out guns blazing, but then say, ‘Well I haven’t really figured out why yet’ is a little odd,” she said. “And pretty suggestive this is just for show and opportunistic in an election year.”
First, we need to discuss the erosion of legislative authority within the evolving model of the federal government. There has been a dramatic shift of authority toward presidential powers and the emergence of what is essentially a fourth branch of government — a vast network of federal agencies with expanded legislative and judicial power. While the federal bureaucracy is a hallmark of the modern administrative state, it presents a fundamental change to a system of three coequal branches designed to check and balance each other. The growing authority invested in federal agencies comes from a diminished Congress, which seems to have a dramatically reduced ability to actively monitor, let alone influence, agency actions.
Second, much of the tit-for-tat politics that has alienated so many Americans is due to the fact that courts routinely refuse to review constitutional disputes because of an overly constricted view of the standing of lawmakers to sue and other procedural barriers. While there can be legitimate disagreement over how and when legislative standing should apply, current legal barriers rob the system of a key avenue for resolution of such conflicts. A modest expansion of standing would provide greater clarity to the line of constitutional separation without causing a flood of cases…
The framers believed that members of each branch of government would transcend individual political ambitions to vigorously defend the power of their institutions. Presidents have persistently expanded their authority with considerable success. Congress has been largely passive or, worse, complicit in the draining of legislative authority. Judges have adopted doctrines of avoidance that have removed the courts from important conflicts between the branches. Now is the time for members of Congress and the judiciary to affirm their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution” and to work to re-establish our delicate constitutional balance.
The main culprits here are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Ms. Pelosi, who’ve put themselves and their caucuses at the disposal of the White House. Winning political battles—sticking it to the GOP—is their priority, not constitutional balance. Mr. Reid has made himself White House gatekeeper, sitting on thorny votes, earning Congress public scorn for dysfunction. His members are meanwhile happy for Mr. Obama to pervert the law, since it saves them taking tough votes…
Yet it is probably asking too much of Senate Democrats to protest the president’s diminution of their powers when they won’t protest Mr. Reid’s. Alaska’s Mark Begich has yet to have a vote on a single one of his amendments in six years. Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu now runs the “powerful” Senate Energy Committee, but as Mr. Reid has neutered committees, she has as much luck getting a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline as she does if she were running the Senate cafeteria. The majority leader last year stripped the Senate of filibuster powers. The Obama senators cheered the dismantling of their institutional power.
Mr. Boehner’s lawsuit was put down by some as a cynical attempt to rally his midterm voters. What this misses is that the Boehner lawsuit, if successful, would reassert the rights of all members of Congress—regardless of party, position or president in power. Democrats might consider thanking him for doing their job.
Having been supine for years in the face of these encroachments, Congress is stirring. The Republican House is preparing a novel approach to acquiring legal standing before the courts to challenge these gross executive usurpations. Nancy Pelosi, reflecting the narrowness of both her partisanship and her vision, dismisses this as a “subterfuge.”
She won’t be saying that on the day Democrats lose the White House. Then, cheered on by a suddenly inflamed media, the Democrats will no doubt express horror at such constitutional overreach.
At which point, the temptation to stick it to the Democrats will be overwhelming.
At which point, Lord give us strength.
More important, as a response to executive lawlessness, a lawsuit is a non sequitur. When a president is running roughshod over the law, it is not the law itself that needs vindication — it is the faithful execution of the law. What makes the law the law is its legislative enactment; it needs no judicial imprimatur to command our compliance. As Jefferson and Lincoln understood, the judicial branch is mainly there for the resolution of private disputes, not political controversies. Congress does not need a court ruling to conclude that its clear statutes have been violated. It did not, in 1974, require an advisory judicial opinion that Richard Nixon had attempted to obstruct justice and abuse the IRS in order to establish that these derelictions had occurred.
The problem we have at the moment is not a lack of certainty about what the law is; the problem is the executive’s refusal to execute the law faithfully. The federal courts are impotent to address that — as several judges who have ruled against the Obama administration over the last six years have learned. Courts have no capacity to enforce their judgments. Law enforcement is a plenary executive power, and thus any court judgment against Obama would have to be enforced by . . . Obama. That is not going to happen.
A judge’s ruling that the president is violating the law would have exactly the same practical effect as Speaker Boehner’s whining that the president is violating the law: none.
The actions by the court and Boehner have the potential to remind Obama of the duties of his office, and its limits. Both moves are predicated on the shared belief that America is a nation of laws, not of men.
My fear is that Obama is not reconciled to that tradition. When he reacts to congressional rejection of his proposals by warning that “I will not take no for an answer,” he suggests his power is unlimited. When his press secretary says that, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Obama will not be “scaling back” his appointments, the stage is set for more polarizing conflict.
How does this end? Not soon, and not well.
This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top, and rigged against the middle class. And as long as they insist on doing it, I’ll keep taking actions on my own – like the actions I’ve taken already to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans. I’ll do my job. And if it makes Republicans in Congress mad that I’m trying to help people out, they can join me, and we’ll do it together.
The point is, we could do so much more as a country – as a strong, tight-knit family – if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck for those at the top, and more interested in growing the economy for everybody.
“The Constitution does not say ‘Hey if its popular, you can exceed your authority.’ It’s kind of irrelevant,” Wallace said over a razzled Beccera.