During President Obama's first term, he made it clear he wasn't too fond of Congress. Now in his second term, he's giving off the same attitude. During a speech today in Burma, Obama said although he's like to impose his will on Congress, he can't.
“As President, I cannot just impose my will on Congress — the Congress of the United States — even though sometimes I wish I could,” he stated. “The legislative branch has its own powers and its own prerogatives, and so they check my power and balance my power.”
It's fair to classify Obama's presidency as an imperial one. When he can't get his agenda accomplished through Congress, he does it through czars, regulation and government departments. We've seen this take place with the Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Service, the Department of Justice and others. The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel detailed this back in May.
Presidents are at their weakest in the realm of domestic policy—subject to checks and balances, co-equal to the other branches. Yet this is where Mr. Obama has granted himself unprecedented power. The health law and the 2009 stimulus package were unique examples of Mr. Obama working with Congress. The more "persistent pattern," Matthew Spalding recently wrote on the Heritage Foundation blog, is "disregard for the powers of the legislative branch in favor of administrative decision making without—and often in spite of—congressional action."
Put another way: Mr. Obama proposes, Congress refuses, he does it anyway.
For example, Congress refused to pass Mr. Obama's Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some not here legally. So Mr. Obama passed it himself with an executive order that directs officers to no longer deport certain illegal immigrants. This may be good or humane policy, yet there is no reading of "prosecutorial discretion" that allows for blanket immunity for entire classes of offenders.
Mr. Obama disagrees with federal law, which criminalizes the use of medical marijuana. Congress has not repealed the law. No matter. The president instructs his Justice Department not to prosecute transgressors. He disapproves of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, yet rather than get Congress to repeal it, he stops defending it in court. He dislikes provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, so he asked Congress for fixes. That effort failed, so now his Education Department issues waivers that are patently inconsistent with the statute.
Similarly, when Mr. Obama wants a new program and Congress won't give it to him, he creates it regardless. Congress, including Democrats, wouldn't pass his cap-and-trade legislation. His Environmental Protection Agency is now instituting it via a broad reading of the Clean Air Act. Congress, again including members of his own party, wouldn't pass his "card-check" legislation eliminating secret ballots in union elections. So he stacked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with appointees who pushed through a "quickie" election law to accomplish much the same. Congress wouldn't pass "net neutrality" Internet regulations, so Mr. Obama's Federal Communications Commission did it unilaterally.
Last month, Minority Leader Eric Cantor released a full report documenting Obama's imperial presidency. According the report, the Obama administration has ignored advise and consent with illegitimate recess appointments, has created laws outside of Congressional process, has flat out ignored current law, has circumvented the normal regulatory process and more.
In the United States, the ultimate law is the Constitution, which specifically provides how laws are to be enacted and requires the President to take care that the laws that are enacted are faithfully executed. The laws of the United States establish the process whereby individuals can enforce their property rights and private contracts and provide the framework by which executive agencies are to conduct rulemakings and the other regulatory activities.
When “laws” are created without going through Congress; when laws are selectively executed; when an administration intervenes into the normal judicial process and diminishes an individual's property rights; and when the normal regulatory process is circumvented, the rule of law is eroded.
All of this increases uncertainty. Individuals, families, and businesses now not only face uncertainty with respect to the policy decisions made by government, but they face uncertainty as to how those decisions will even be made, Numerous economic studies and surveys indicate that uncertainty itself (which is certainly increased with the breakdown in the rule of law) also hinders economic growth.
While Administrations of both political parties have been known to test the bounds of the limits of their power, the breadth of the breakdown in the rule of law in recent years has reached new levels. In the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal's annual Index of Economic Freedom, the United States scores lower today on the rule of law than it did in 2008. As the 2012 report notes, “Corruption is a growing concern as the cronyism and economic rent-seeking associated with the growth of government have undermined institutional integrity.” Individuals and businesses are increasingly forced to rely on the courts to enforce their most basic substantive and procedural rights.
Over the past year-and-half, the Committees of the House of Representatives have investigated and documented numerous break-downs in the rule of law. This report compiles over 40 separate examples that span the breadth of government, including instances where the Administration has attempted to:
Tell a private business in what state it can locate;
Tell a religious institution which employees are “religious” under certain federal laws;
Regulate the internet;
Rewrite Federal education law;
Created new “Super” regulatory agencies; and
Significantly restrict America's energy resources.
Many pundits claimed after Obama's reelection that the president would move to the middle and work with Congress on important issues. I disagree and believe Obama will continue his use of regulation through government agencies to implement his far left policies.