The constitutional issues involving President Barack Obama’s executive orders on amnesty far transcend the issue of illegal immigration. The president’s action strikes at the very heart of our separation of powers. The Constitution reserves to Congress alone the power to enact and alter law, and charges the president with the responsibility to faithfully execute those laws.
If the president can seize legislative power in this manner and then boast to an audience that he himself has changed the law, then the separation of powers becomes meaningless, and our constitutional Republic will have crossed a very bright line that separates a nation of laws from the unhappy societies where rulers boast the “law is in their mouths.”
If this precedent stands, every succeeding president, Republican and Democrat, will cite it as authority to make or alter law by decree. That cannot be allowed to happen.
The question occurs, what is the House to do?
It took its first step last week by passing H.R. 5759, which declares the President’s action unconstitutional and null and void. This was a symbolic act since the bill is subject to a Presidential veto, but was a warning the President should have heeded. Obviously, he has not.
What else can the Congress do?
One of the fundamental checks held by the Congress is the power of appropriation–it can close the purse by forbidding the use of federal funds to proceed with this unconstitutional act.
I realize this is a difficult power to exercise with a dysfunctional Senate. But a temporary funding measure into January or February would protect us against any prospect of a government shutdown while we try to engage the Senate to rise in defense of the Constitution. And if the Democratic Senate will not defend our Constitution –and that’s a very strong possibility–a few weeks from now the Republican Senate certainly will.
Why in the world would we want to lock in federal spending through next September that reflects the priorities of the Democratic Senate that voters just thoroughly repudiated last month? Why in the world would we want to so greatly weaken our position to insist on the complete defunding of the President’s unconstitutional act in the next session of Congress just three weeks hence?
Meanwhile, it is imperative that the House take every action available to engage the Supreme Court to resolve this constitutional crisis. Several states have already filed suit, and the House needs to join them.
In addition, the House needs to vote as an institution to challenge this act directly. This is too important to be treated as an afterthought on current litigation over Obamacare. It needs to be voted on separately, unequivocally and NOW.
Since the earliest days of our Republic, the Supreme Court has invalidated legislative acts that conflicted with the Constitution. Now, it must be called upon to invalidate an executive act that strikes at the core of our Constitution. Regardless of the ideologies of the individual justices, I cannot believe that any of them can sit idly by as the executive seizes such fundamental powers from the legislative branch.
On behalf of the House, the Speaker announced last month that we would fight this act tooth-and-nail. To adjourn having taken only a symbolic vote while abandoning our actual powers to challenge this act undermines the credibility of the House majority.
Elements on the extreme Left argue that the president’s act was justified due to Congressional inaction over immigration reform. They fault the House for not adopting a Senate immigration measure, but they forget that the House passed a strong immigration bill this summer that the Senate refused to consider.
Since when has Congressional disagreement over legislation been license for the President to legislate himself?
This argument abandons the Constitution and the rule of law for the expediency of one-man-rule. We should recognize such arguments for what they are: the authoritarianism of the extreme left. We should reject these arguments and those who make them.
The Roman Republic died when Julius Caesar seized the legislative authority of the Roman Senate. Repeated acts of usurpation went unchallenged until the constitutional structure of the Republic simply disintegrated.
Let that not be the epitaph of the American Republic. Of this crisis, let history record that men and women of good will on both sides of the aisle joined together to defend the Constitution they swore to uphold, and that this generation passed that Constitution–and all the freedoms it has preserved–intact and inviolate–to the many generations who followed.