The Constitution of the United States was drafted and ratified as the foundational legal codex of the country in part because it would prevent tyranny in America. It had a series of checks and balances between the three branches of government that were designed to disallow any one branch, or any one person, from amassing so much power that they could run the country, and us, as a tyrant. We are witnessing firsthand the unraveling of those assurances.
Over the past several weeks, the President of the United States has declared that he has “a pen and a phone” and intends to use them to implement his agenda. He has made it clear that he deems this necessary since he has an uncooperative Congress that, unlike his first two years in office, refuses to subserviently rubber stamp everything he wants.
It’s clear from the context of his statements that his intent is to use the power of the presidency to sign Executive Orders and use his phone to force his agenda on the nation. By so doing, he is blatantly circumventing the very precautions embedded in our founding legal codex that were designed to prevent despotic rule in our country.
This perception is one shared by Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized constitutional law expert, professor at the George Washington University Law School, and a self-avowed liberal.
Turley appeared before the House Judiciary Committee two months ago, where Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte asked the following question: “Professor Turley, the constitution, the system of separated powers is not simply about stopping one branch of government from usurping another. It’s about protecting the liberty of Americans from the dangers of concentrated government power. How does the president’s unilateral modification of acts of Congress affect both the balance of power between the political branches and the liberty interests of the American people?”
Professor Turley responded, “The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the president is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in a single branch.”
At issue in the hearing was whether the president had the authority to unilaterally change the implementation dates of a lawfully passed Act of Congress, the Affordable Care Act. Turley’s response was an undiluted and unqualified “No.”
This was not the first time the president has exercised unconstitutional powers of the presidency. Three years ago, he declared his administration would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though Congress failed to pass his proposed Cap and Trade bill, he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to actively enforce provisions of that bill that were never made law. He unilaterally proscribed expansion of offshore drilling without legislatively authorized power to do so. He has granted loans to other nations to drill for oil, without authorization from Congress. He has, without congressional authority, implemented portions of the Dream Act, an illegal immigration bill, which never passed Congress. He has ordered the Federal Communications Commission to adopt regulations giving the government control over the internet, and provide him with a “kill switch” to turn it off.
Just to clarify the role of the president, according to our own laws and Constitution: he is to “faithfully execute the laws.” He has no power to create laws or unilaterally change laws. That is the role of Congress. Nor can he reverse legally passed laws. If he had those powers, we would no longer be a lawful nation committed to the rule of law, but would be an autocracy, ruled by the capricious and ideological whims of one man. This is precisely what Obama is doing, according to Professor Turley.
We clearly have a president who doesn’t respect the Constitution enough to abide by it. He clearly has no respect for the rule of law since he feels it within his power to single-handedly create new code and force it on the nation.
Even the Executive Order (EO) has not the power to legally do what the president is doing. There are three things the EO can be used for: operational management of the executive branch, operational management of the federal agencies or officials, and implementing statutory or constitutional presidential responsibilities. Executive Orders cannot be used to either create new law, or to annul or reverse existing law. After all, his primary function, according to the Constitution and his oath of office, is to “faithfully execute the office” in enforcement and execution of the laws legally passed by the legislative branch.
We have a lawless president who is not doing what he’s required by law to do, and is exceeding his authority by assuming legislative power to create law. What more evidence do we need to impeach and remove from office, a president who is making himself an American dictator? And where is Congress’ spine to reclaim their power that he has misappropriated from them?
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.