“We can no longer wait for Congress to do its job… So where Congress won’t act, I will.”
- President Obama in his October 29, 2011 weekly radio address
got a lot to do in 2014. I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I
can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and
administrative actions that move the ball forward …”
- President Obama to his Cabinet during the first meeting of 2014 (January 14, 2014)
the head of the executive branch of the U.S. government, we expect the
President to act as a leader. It fits the American culture where we want
our leaders to be take-charge individuals. That makes it easy to
understand how there were some people in the country who stood up and
cheered when President Obama said he was tired of the gridlock in
Congress and that he would press forward, by himself if need be, to
accomplish the items that he thought needed to be accomplished.
A funny thing happened along the way to “getting things done”, however. What President Obama said he would do was not legal.
Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled President Obama stepped over the
limits of his authority when he made recess appointments to the
National Labor Relations Board in 2012. He made the move because of his
frustration over the lack of progress in filling the positions. The
problem is the U.S. Senate argued it never went into recess, gaveling in
and out every three days as required.
Most importantly, this
ruling was not a squeak-by-on-a-partisan-vote decision. The Justices
ruled 9-0 against President Obama’s power grab and in favor of Congress.
Let’s say that again: None of the Justices believed President Obama had the authority to act as he did.
was the last time there was universal agreement on anything in
Washington D.C.? Now, because of the Supreme Court ruling, more than 420
decisions made by the NLRB since the appointments are under scrutiny.
It will most likely take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to
sort out the mess and all the soon-to-be-filed lawsuits.
issue with the executive branch taking liberties with its authority has
just begun. A day earlier Speaker of the House John Boehner said he was
planning a lawsuit against President Obama, calling into question
multiple executive orders and actions that either contradict standing
law or skirt the enacting of law through Congress.
Now, to be
fair, the lawsuit may go no where. The problem will be Boehner proving
“standing” that a concrete, personal injury has been done to him by the
President’s actions or inactions.
But that is not the point. The
point is our federal government has arguably reached a point it has
never been to in history. When the Constitution was written, it provided
for a series of checks and balances to ensure no one branch of the
government became more powerful than another. In this case, if a
President was attempting to act outside of the ability of the executive
office, for instance writing executive orders that were treated as laws,
then Congress could pass laws that nullified his actions.
President Obama has already shown, and boasted about, his willingness
to only enforce the portions or whole laws he agrees with.
Congress’ only remaining power would be to call for impeachment
hearings. While an impeachment may pass the Republican-led House of
Representatives, it will certainly fail in the Democrat-led Senate where
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not even call for votes on
With the President picking and choosing
what laws to uphold or enacting laws on his own and Congress unwilling
or unable to defend its Constitutional powers, Americans are left with
something they never wanted to see: a Constitutional crisis that could
define the make up of the federal government for decades.
We can only wait to see who comes out on top.