Obama’s Power Grabs Set a Dangerous Precedent

By Roger Wicker

March 21, 2014

President Obama’s habit of repeatedly sidestepping Congress has made a mockery of the Constitution. Not only has he defied the law to advance an ultra-liberal agenda, but his power grabs also set a dangerous precedent for future administrations.

America’s founding document is clear in its designation of powers to Congress and the President. “All legislative powers” go to the legislative branch, while the responsibility of seeing “that the Laws be faithfully executed” belongs to the executive. These decrees are essential to the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

Our Founding Fathers knew the danger of an imperial presidency and established a system of divided and limited power to protect against it. Sadly, President Obama continues to undermine this important balance through a flagrant use of administrative fiats.

Perhaps nowhere is the president’s overreach more evident than his unaffordable, unworkable and unpopular health-care law. Instead of working with Congress to fix the law’s many flaws, Obama has consistently proceeded to rewrite legislation while at the same defending it as “the law of the land.” For example, he has delayed the law’s key provision requiring employers with at least 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance. Similarly egregious is his political postponement of the law’s core individual mandate provision.

The administration’s constitutional runaround is particularly inexcusable given the bipartisan willingness in Congress to address the health care law’s shortcomings. But in response to congressional efforts to delay or modify the law, the president issues veto threats and then follows them with his own unilateral edicts.

Alarmingly, the Obama Administration’s abuse of power extends far beyond the health-care law. He has also made illegal “recess” appointments without the “advice and consent” of the Senate. These excessive orders and waivers are not isolated incidents but part of a troubling pattern. Time and again, President Obama has defied the limits of his office by ignoring the Constitution when it is convenient.

The president needs to be held accountable for actions that violate his executive power. In an effort to defend the Constitution’s separation of powers, Congress has offered a potential response to curb this abuse with the Enforce the Law Act. This legislation would allow Congress to adopt a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the executive branch if the president refrains from enforcing any provision of federal law. Essentially, it would help ensure that the President is fulfilling his constitutional obligation to see that the law is faithfully executed.

A functioning democracy requires all three branches of the government to recognize and respect the parameters of power that the Framers envisioned. Likewise, preserving the integrity of the Constitution requires dutiful vigilance by those who have sworn an oath to protect it. The Enforce the Law Act is one solution, but what the American people really need is a president who understands the Constitution and the essential limits on presidential power. As James Madison wrote in essay No. 48 of “The Federalist Papers,” “It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)

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