Date: December 6, 2013

By: Bob Goodlatte

For more than 200 years, the U.S. Constitution has served as the law of the land and the framework on which we have built our nation.  The principles enshrined in this document by our Founding Fathers protect Americans’ liberties by creating a limited government that is divided into three separate branches, with each branch having defined functions delegated to it by the Constitution.  This “separation of powers” was designed so that no one branch acquires too much power.  The President is charged with executing the laws; the Congress with writing the laws; and the Judiciary with interpreting them.

Recently, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.”  This hearing was an opportunity for continued oversight of the Administration and to bring to light some of the concerns with far-reaching uses of executive power.  

Throughout President Obama’s tenure, we’ve witnessed a pattern: when the President disagrees with laws, he circumvents them.  Ignoring the separation of powers of the Constitution, President Obama has proclaimed that “I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer” and that “where [Congress] won’t act, I will.”  From Obamacare to immigration and federal drugs laws, the Administration is picking and choosing which laws to enforce.  The hearing largely focused on the President’s recent actions to waive, suspend, and amend major provisions of his health care law, including delaying the employer mandate for one year and instructing States that they are free to ignore the law’s clear language regarding which existing health care plans may be grandfathered.  

The President is rewriting his own law, even though the law doesn’t provide him the authority to do so.  These actions go well beyond the “executive power” granted to the President and specifically violate the Constitution’s command in Article II, Section 3 that the President is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  

The point is not whether you agree with President Obama’s individual policy decisions.  It is that the President may not – consistent with the command that he faithfully execute the laws – unilaterally amend, waive, or suspend the law.  Oversight of the Executive Branch is not a partisan issue.  Instead, Democrats and Republicans should come together, regardless of the President’s party, to ensure that executive power is kept in check.

The Executive Branch’s role in our Constitution’s carefully balanced separation of powers is clear.  We cannot allow the separation of powers to be abandoned in favor of an undue concentration of power in the Executive Branch – what one witness at the hearing referred to as the rise of an “uber-presidency.”  As James Madison warned centuries ago in Federalist 47, “the accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  The Judiciary Committee will continue to stand guard over the principles of our Constitution and work to ensure that it is the Congress, not the President, that legislates.

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