I’m no constitutional scholar, and I have never played one on television, but my stays at a Holiday Inn qualify me to say ALL Americans should be concerned by President Obama’s blatant disregard of the Constitution and the deliberate limitations it placed on the powers of the Executive.
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Presidential powers and the Constitution. In what I believe should be required viewing for all Americans, the committee asked various constitutional scholars for an opinion of President Obama’s use of Executive powers on policies including Obamacare, Immigration Reform and the IRS investigation. The opinions offered were from scholars who support and who oppose the president’s policies, however, the consensus among them was that President Obama acted contrary to the Constitution, placing the state of our Republic at a crossroads.
America is referred to as the great experiment for being the first country to form a government by and for the people in order to preserve liberty. Rather than the power residing in the hands of the government to rule the people, it was instead entrusted to the people to govern themselves.
The Founders understood the fragility of the idea of America and the importance of an informed and engaged people. When asked whether America was a Monarchy or a Republic, Ben Franklin famously said, ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’
The Founders took great care to form 3 equal branches of government equipped with checks and balances in order to prevent power from accumulating within one branch. Intimately familiar with English history and law, they insisted confining the Chief Executive to enumerated powers, to limit the term served, and to protect specifically the power of the legislative branch by placing the control of the purse and the creation of new laws in their hands.
When a president takes the oath of office, he must
“solemnly swear that [he] will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The Take Care Clause is often referenced by the Obama administration as the provision allowing the president to circumvent Congress, contrary to the Constitution. While the Take Care Clause provides leeway in how a president executes or carries out a law, according to George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley, it ‘affirms the obligation of the President to faithfully execute those laws created by Congress.’ ‘The Clause does not allow a president refuse to enforce a law unless he believes it unconstitutional.
Given President Obama unilaterally decided not to enforce portions of the Affordable Care Act, are we to assume he deems his signature piece of legislation unconstitutional?
Turley, a supporter of President Obama and his policies, goes on to note, ‘it is equally significant that the clause following the obligation to faithfully execute the laws is the clause allowing for the impeachment and removal of presidents.’
Given most panel members agreed President Obama’s actions were contrary to the Constitution, they were asked repeatedly for an opinion on remedies available not only to Congress but to the American people in order to prevent such abuse of power. The common answer; for Congress, impeachment; for the American people, elections.
Unfortunately, the use of elections as a remedy requires a principled candidate and an informed public. In part, President Obama took away the remedy of election from the American people when he chose to lie for three years about the Affordable Care Act, followed by blaming a YouTube video for the Benghazi terrorist attack when he knew immediately it was Al Qaeda.
The American people, however, are not blameless. Our republic is a gift, but one that requires preservation and in this area, we have failed to uphold our end of the bargain. We are content with representatives who consistently rise to meet the low expectations set by their constituency, sending them back to office at a rate of 90% or higher.
It is time ‘We the People’ begin not only to awaken and face the crossroads at which we find our nation, but to begin shouldering the work expected of us by the Founders in order to pass the gift given us to the next generation.
Why should Americans regardless of party be concerned about President Obama’s abuse of Executive powers? Constitutional violations tolerated by a president, sets a precedent for the next administration to push the envelope further. While your party of choice may hold the office now, this will not always be. Eventually someone else will hold the office of President, and it may even be, dare I say, a Republican. What remedy will you have when you want to stop the abuse of power then?