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What is Constitutional in the 2015 State of the Union Address?

By Dr. Harold Pease

In listening to the President’s State of the Union Address one might think that he actually has the power to do what he requests. On domestic issues two old requests from last years State of the Union Address were renewed: a request for raising the minimum wage and, instead of just making the college opportunity available to all middle class Americans, he went further proposing free community college for all. Other requests included advocacy for “a free and open Internet,” which, given a recent executive order means control of it, expanded child care tax credits, improved job training, expanded paid leave, and a new tax benefit for two-income families. All this to be funded by increased taxes on the rich. He threatened a veto to any legislation that altered Obamacare or undermined his recently decreed executive amnesty. He was decidedly unclear on his request for criminal justice reform, certainly a reference to the riots in Ferguson, Mo. More federal involvement always means more federal control.

He defended his positions on Cuba and Iran and threatened presidential vetoes if Congress legislated differently. Constitutionalist had to have cheered when he seemed to lecture, the mostly Republican Congress, on what he called “rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military—then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world.” He called it “a smarter kind of American leadership” and seemed aimed at the so-called military industrial complex of which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned. He saw rewriting the Authorization of Use of Military Force, which authorized the air campaigns in Iraq and Syria, as a priority but left few specifics on what that meant. He still refuses to use the term Radical Islamist Terrorists in describing the Islamists involved in the mass killing in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and France even though while he spoke they were threatening to topple Yemen who has stood with us in opposition to al-Qaida.

The list went on and on as it does for every president Republican or Democrat, but what was different from last year is that he threatened the use of the veto rather than the threat of his bypassing Congress with the use of the “pen” through executive orders. The term executive order is not found in the Constitution and initially was nothing more than inter-departmental communications between the President and his executive branch with him requesting some action on their part. Constitutionally they have no law-making function.

Unfortunately most, if not all, of these things are not in Article II of the Constitution nor have they been added by way of amendment as outlined in Article V of that document, thus they are unconstitutional. It is very probable that, even with the approval of Congress, they would be outside the Constitution but that is a topic for another time. Presidents, in their thirst for power and /or proclaimed expediency, have empowered themselves to the point of “kingship” with their worshipful, unchallenging, party followers (whether Democrat or Republican) quite willing to look the other way as government grows beyond its ability to be constitutional or efficient. At any time he could remind the people of his real constitutional powers but he will not as that would drastically reduce his power that is beginning to look limitless.

We must return to the Constitutional powers of the President as identified in Article II. As we list these powers attempt to match the State of the Union requests wherein he suggests that he might have a role. Under the Constitution the president has but eleven powers. Let us identify them: 1) “Commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States” including the militia when called into actual service of the United States; 2) supervise departments (cabinet), each presumably established by the Congress (George Washington had but four); 3) grant reprieves and pardons; 4) make treaties with the help of the Senate; 5) with Senate help appoint positions established by law such as ambassadors, ministers and judges; 6) fill vacancies “during recess of the Senate;” 7) make recommendations to Congress on the state of the union; 8) convene both houses on special occasions and handle disputes with respect to convening; 9) receive ambassadors and other public ministers; 10) make certain that “laws be faithfully executed;” and, 11) “commission all the officers of the United States.”

Simply stated the president has two supervisory powers over existing organizations and two shared powers with the Senate, otherwise he pardons, recommends, appoints and entertains. That is it! Notice the absence of power to make any rules and regulations on us. This is the job of Congress alone.

All measures listed in the 2015 State of the Union Address are but suggestions to Congress, which alone, as per Article I, Section I, has all law-making functions—the president has none. That said, he is within his constitutional bounds with his threat of the veto, which is likely to be used liberally.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution.

From the Obama State of the Union Address what can he Constitutionally do?

By Dr. Harold Pease

In listening to the President’s State of the Union Address one would think that he actually has the power to do what he says should be done. He eloquently suggested a federal role in: curbing obesity, making the college opportunity available to all middle class Americans, partnering with local government “from homes to marriage equality,” and improving transportation. Added to the list was streamlining bureaucracy, building two “hubs” for economic opportunity (he wanted Congress to add five more) presumably in places like Detroit, unleashing funding for inventions, and preserving more “pristine federal lands”(code for confiscation). He wants new emission standards for trucks and enlarged federal standards for air quality, new jobs training programs, and a restoration of unemployment insurance. In education he wants his “Race to the Top” program accelerated and high school curriculum redesigned. He wants to impact the work place more (whatever that means), raise the minimum wage to $10.10, create “My RA’s a new savings bond for everyone” and IRA’s on the job.

The list went on and on just as it does for every president Republican or Democrat, but what was different this time was the threat of his bypassing Congress with the use of the “pen” (an obvious threat of the use of executive orders) where he felt he could. He promised to unilaterally raise the minimum wage for federal employees and his threat to do it, alone, must be taken seriously because he did just that on immigration and Obamacare law. We have never had a president who boldly promised to make law if the Congress failed to do so.

Unfortunately most, if not all, of these things are not in Article II of the Constitution nor have they been added by way of amendment as outlined in Article V of that document, thus they are unconstitutional. Presidents, in their thirst for power and /or proclaimed expediency, have empowered themselves to the point of “kingship” with their worshipful, unchallenging, party followers (whether democrat or republican) quite willing to look the other way as government grows beyond its ability to be constitutional or efficient. At any time he could remind the people of his real constitutional powers but he will not as that would drastically reduce his power that is beginning to look limitless.

We must return to the Constitutional powers of the President as identified in Article II. As we list these powers attempt to match the State of the Union requests wherein he suggests that he might have a role. Under the Constitution the president has but eleven powers. Let us identify them: 1) “Commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States” including the militia when called into actual service of the United States; 2) supervise departments (cabinet), each presumably established by the Congress (George Washington had but four); 3) grant reprieves and pardons; 4) make treaties with the help of the Senate; 5) with Senate help appoint positions established by law such as ambassadors, ministers and judges; 6) fill vacancies “during recess of the Senate;” 7) make recommendations to Congress on the state of the union; 8) convene both houses on special occasions and handle disputes with respect to convening; 9) receive ambassadors and other public ministers; 10) make certain that “laws be faithfully executed;” and, 11) “commission all the officers of the United States.”

Simply stated the president has two supervisory powers over existing organizations and two shared powers with the Senate, otherwise he pardons, recommends, appoints and entertains. That is it! Notice the absence of power to make any rules and regulations on us. This is the job of Congress alone.

Obama threatens a role by way of executive order, the use of the pen to accomplish the items in his address, as kings or dictators do. The term executive order is not found in the Constitution. Executive orders were initially nothing more than inter-departmental communications between the President and his executive branch with him requesting some action on their part. Constitutionally they have no law making function. Congress must reign-in any executive that uses them to make or alter law. Article I, Section I clearly gives only Congress law making power. Impeachment is a proper response for any president who subverts or threatens the separation of powers doctrine, as his oath requires that he “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”

Are Unelected and Unconfirmed Czars Replacing Congress?

By Dr. Harold Pease

By now most informed political observers know something of the executive branches attempt to replace Congress as the major rule-making body by appointing, what are called Czars, who create policy and manage programs in areas where the president has no Constitutional authority as outlined in Article II, Sections II and III. Moreover, these appointments are made without the “advice and consent,” of the U.S. Senate as is required by the Constitution. They function much like cabinet officers but are unconfirmed and are accountable only to the president. They also are not required to swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

This totally unconstitutional new stratum of government first started with Franklin Roosevelt who appointed, without Senate confirmation, eleven so called Czars in the 1930’s during his more than three terms in the White House. Harry Truman had 6 and Bill Clinton 8. Such was never seriously resisted, often because the president’s party also controlled both Houses of Congress and blind party loyalty kept them from questioning their leader. Then Czar power exploded. George W. Bush had 33 and Barack Obama, the king of Czar appointments, virtually began his administration with unconfirmed, unaccountable to no one but himself, 37 Czars. That number now exceeds 50.

Some of the more controversial Czars under George W. Bush head the following areas: AIDS, Bank Bailouts, Bioethics, Bird Flue, Birth Control, Copyright, Cyber Security and even Democracy. Do not ask what a Democracy Czar or a Birth Control Czar does. Not one of these powers belongs to the President. Under Obama such included: Auto, Bank Bailout, Climate, Global Warming, Pay, Domestic Violence, Drug, and Ethics Czars. Once again, these are powers never given to the Executive Branch of Government by the Constitution or any amendment added thereto; presidents just took them while Congress sat idly by. Actually most are state powers as per Amendment 10 of the U.S. Constitution. Both had/have Weatherization and Faith-Based Czars, what ever those are (List of U. S. Executive Branch Czars, Wikipedia.org). Each of these has enormous government power and answer only to the President, as would be the case under a king or dictator. Constitutional checks and balances do not exist.

One Democratic Senator alone had the guts to challenge his own party with the unconstitutionality of this practice. Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving senator in U.S. history, “wrote a letter to President Obama … criticizing the President’s strategy of creating czars to manage important areas of national policy. Senator Byrd said that these appointments violate both the constitutional system of checks and balances and the constitutional separation of powers, and is a clear attempt to evade congressional oversight (Senior Democrat Says Obama’s Czars Unconstitutional, by Ken Klukowski, June 15, 2009, Infowars.com).”

So what are the President’s real powers outside his right to veto proposed law? Once again they are found in Article II, Sections II and III. Under the Constitution the president has but eleven powers. Let us identify them: 1) “Commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States” including the militia when called into actual service of the United States; 2) supervise departments (cabinet), each presumably established by the Congress (George Washington had but four); 3) grant reprieves and pardons; 4) make treaties with the help of the Senate; 5) with Senate help appoint positions established by law such as ambassadors, ministers and judges; 6) fill vacancies “during recess of the Senate;” 7) make recommendations to Congress on the state of the union; 8) convene both houses on special occasions and handle disputes with respect to convening (Prior to the 20th Amendment in Feb. 6, 1933, Congress convened on the first Monday in December and were out before Christmas—maybe three weeks.); 9) receive ambassadors and other public ministers; 10) make certain that “laws be faithfully executed;” and, 11) “commission all the officers of the United States.”

Simply stated, the president has two supervisory powers over existing organizations and two shared powers with the Senate, otherwise he pardons, recommends, appoints and entertains. That is it! Notice the absence of power to make any rules and regulations on us. This is the job of Congress alone.

Congress should immediately end all Czars and, if resisted in doing so, move next to impeachment proceedings regardless of political party. Please help save your liberty by passing this column on.

Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.