Harold Pease, Ph. D
President Barack Obama acted as though he was unaware of the overwhelming rejection of his policies, which he had insisted were on the ballot this election, in one of the largest mid-term election defeats in the last 100 years. He came out of the gate with a renewal of his long-time threat of legalizing illegal immigration by himself through executive order before the end of the year. He referred to it as taking “care of business.” “I can’t wait another two years,” he defiantly threatened Congress.
Both branches of Congress returned their own warning if he made law independent of them. The new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered that his doing so would be comparable to “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” House Speaker John Boehner warned, “When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself—and he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”
There is nothing more clear nor basic in the Constitution than the separation of federal power into three branches, one to legislate, yet another to execute that law, and a third to adjudicate possible violations, when contested, of that law—a division of power held “sacred” until the last few decades. The Constitution reads: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives”(Article I, Sec. I).
The Executive Branch has no authority to make law—any law!!!! Executive Orders are constitutional only when they cite a single, recently passed law of Congress, where that law needs a statement of implementation by the executive branch. Presidential Directives, a type of Executive Order, differs only in defining how that law, passed by Congress, will be implemented. Neither type is to alter, or defy, law formerly passed by Congress.
For years some in Congress have been working on what is called the Dream Act that would extend amnesty and place millions of illegal immigrants on a course toward full citizenship. Lacking popularity, twice it has failed to get the majority vote of both Houses of Congress required by the Constitution thus leaving existing immigration law unchanged; once, between 2008-2010, when the President’s party controlled everything except the Judicial branch. He had his chance and was unable to even sell it to his own majority party.
A president can only suggest a need for new law in his State of the Union Address, and either sign or veto a law passed by Congress, which then, if vetoed, must be overridden by a vote of 2/3rds of both Houses to become law. That is it. Candidate Obama understood this when first ran, he said, “Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it, or he can sign it.” This is the law of the land and the Constitutional procedure violated by Barack Obama, as President, June 16, 2012, when, failing to get a favorable vote from Congress on legalizing illegal immigration, openly defied Congress and the Constitution by ordering a like measure to that defeated, implemented anyway. Thousands of illegals avoided deportation as a result.
This is the most open case of contempt for Congress and the Constitution and the President knew it. In March 28, 2011, he said, with respect to the idea of nullifying Congress on the deportation issue. “The notion that I can just suspend deportations just through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”
So why did he “flip-flop” and knowingly violate the Constitution? Obama saw an inept Congress that has not placed any restraint on his previous unconstitutional executive orders. He brilliantly also saw a way to “buy” the Hispanic vote. If the Republicans resisted he had a powerful campaign issue. His argument for the violation, “It is the right thing to do.” But this has nothing to do with the fact that he usurped the powers given only to Congress, and in the most contemptuous way possible, and established a precedent for the continued nullification of Congress. Moreover, he also violated his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”(Article II, Sec. 1, Clause 8). His failure to do so was “a high crime,” an impeachable offense, which action should have been introduced with bipartisan support with 100 signatures in the Senate and 435 in the House. This issue should have been that clear but unfortunately party loyalty is higher than constitutional loyalty. Will he defy Congress again?
The “waving red flag” mentioned by Mitch McConnell and the “playing with matches” noted by John Boehner should refer to the full use of impeachment powers by the House and the Senate if the President attempts to nullify existing law by his executive order. Democrats too must recognize that executive orders making law weakens the sole power of Congress to make all law and places us on the road of government by decree or edict of one man. We must choose the Constitution over party. How does a president’s defiance of Congress differ from what a king or dictator does? It doesn’t. The Constitution is there to protect all parties and all citizens from arbitrary and caprices rule. Please let it work.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.