Tuesday’s House hearing, The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws, was more gripping than a wonky examination of law might suggest. Constitutionalist Tea Party Republicans were in attendance, while the Democrat side of the dais was somewhat empty. Perhaps members of the President’s party didn’t want to be seen defending him, now that Obamacare has become the disaster without end.
The House is the branch of government most damaged by the “imperial President” (a phrase used by Prof. Jonathan Turley in his testimony).
The opening statement of Chairman Bob Goodlatte was straightforward and specific.
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Full Committee Hearing “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws” December 3, 2013
Chairman Goodlatte: Today’s hearing is about the President’s role in our constitutional system.
Our system of government is a tripartite one, with each branch having certain defined functions delegated to it by the Constitution. The President is charged with executing the laws; the Congress with writing the laws; and the Judiciary with interpreting them.
The Obama Administration, however, has ignored the Constitution’s carefully balanced separation of powers and unilaterally granted itself the extra-constitutional authority to amend the laws and to waive or suspend their enforcement. [. . .]
From Obamacare to immigration, the current administration is picking and choosing which laws to enforce. But the Constitution does not confer upon the President the “executive authority” to disregard the separation of powers by unilaterally waiving, suspending, or revising the laws. It is a bedrock principle of constitutional law that the President must “faithfully execute” Acts of Congress. The President cannot refuse to enforce a law simply because he dislikes it. [. . .]
In place of the checks and balances established by the Constitution, President Obama has proclaimed that “I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer” and that “where [Congress] won’t act, I will.” Throughout the Obama presidency we have seen a pattern: President Obama circumvents Congress when he doesn’t get his way.
For instance, while Congress is currently debating how to reform our immigration laws, the President effectively enacted the DREAM Act himself by ordering immigration officials to stop enforcing the immigration laws against certain unlawful immigrants. [. . .]
Also noteworthy was Congressman Trey Gowdy, the former prosecutor, who asked witnesses on the panel of lawyers, “If you can suspend mandatory minimum and immigration laws, why not election laws?” referring to the President.
Professor Turley expressed his deep concern with the slow-moving Constitutional crisis and its harm done to the House of Representatives:
TURLEY (starting 6.45): The great concern I have for this body is that it is not only being circumvented, but it is also being denied the ability to enforce its inherent powers. Many of these questions are not close in my view; the President is outside the line. But it has to go in front of a court and that court has to grant review, and that’s where we have the most serious Constitutional crisis I view in my lifetime. And that is, this body is becoming less and less relevant.
Iowa Congressman Steve King is not a lawyer, but he is well read on the Constitution. His questioning of Prof Turley brought another statement of concern about how this President is destroying the brilliant system created by the framers:
TURLEY (starting at 5.28): I have great trepidation of where we are headed, because we are creating a new system here – something that is not what was designed. We have a rising fourth branch in a system that was tripartite. The center of gravity is shifting and that makes it unstable. And ithin that system, you have the rise of an Uber-Presidency. There could be no greater danger for individual liberty. I really think that the Framers would be horrified by that shift, because everything they dedicated themselves to was creating political balance – and we’ve lost it.
You can view the entire hearing using C-SPAN online: Presidential Powers and the Constitution.