Stopping a lawless president

The House has passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) that would guarantee expedited consideration by federal courts of House resolutions initiating lawsuits to force presidents to “faithfully execute” laws. But as a bill, it is impotent unless and until Republicans control the Senate and a Republican holds the president’s signing pen.

Some say the judicial branch should not intervene because if Americans are so supine that they tolerate representatives who tolerate such executive excesses, they deserve to forfeit constitutional government. This abstract doctrine may appeal to moralists lacking responsibilities. For the judiciary, it would be dereliction of the duty to protect the government’s constitutional structure. It would be perverse for courts to adhere to a doctrine of congressional standing so strict that it precludes judicial defense of the separation of powers.

Advocates of extreme judicial quietism to punish the supine people leave the people’s representatives no recourse short of the extreme and disproportionate “self help” of impeachment. Surely courts should not encourage this. The cumbersome and divisive blunderbuss process of impeachment should be a rare recourse. Furthermore, it would punish a president for anti-constitutional behavior but would not correct the injury done to the rule of law.