Sometimes the law just gets in the way.
The Obama Administration hasn’t needed Congress to enact new regulations on the Internet, businesses, energy production, and religious institutions. It has used its power to give struggling labor unions a new edge. It has granted amnesty to illegal immigrants.
This blatant disregard for the law—and unilateral creation of new laws—is documented in a detailed new report from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Based on investigations in committees of the House of Representatives, the report lays out more than 40 examples of the Administration’s going around Congress to make its own “laws,” ignoring existing laws, circumventing the regulatory process, making its own “law” by waiving existing laws, creating “super agencies,” and setting up federal programs that were not authorized by Congress.
When its unilateral lawmaking wasn’t enough, the Administration has carved up the law by selectively issuing waivers so that the inconvenient parts could be avoided. Instead of education reform, the Administration issued waivers of No Child Left Behind’s requirements to coax states toward its new education plans. Instead of honesty about Obamacare’s effects, the Administration issued waivers to selected health plans to ease the blow.
Matthew Spalding, Vice President for American Studies and Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, wrote about the imperial presidency in June:
We can now see before us a persistent pattern of disregard for the powers of the legislative branch in favor of administrative decision-making without—and often in spite of—congressional action. This violates the spirit—and potentially the letter—of the Constitution’s separation of the legislative and executive powers of Congress and the President.
It wasn’t long after Spalding wrote these words that The Wall Street Journal expressed a similar concern: “When Congress won’t do what he wants, he ignores it and acts anyway.” That same month, Obama’s Health and Human Services Department gutted the work requirements out of welfare reform.
Cantor’s report shows that no matter the circumstances, the President has found his way around the people’s representatives:
In some instances, President Obama attempted to garner legislative authority, failed and then acted unilaterally in defiance. In other instances, the President never even sought to find consensus and instead ignored Congress and its authority from the outset. In speeches, the President has proudly acknowledged that he has acted without Congress, contending that he has no other alternative.
Not only has he turned lives and businesses upside down with his harmful policies, but President Obama is also setting a dangerous precedent. Who’s to say the next President won’t come in and do exactly the same thing? Regardless of the executive’s party or policy positions, this is not what the presidency is supposed to be. It’s simply outside the President’s authority, as Spalding explains:
The President has unique and powerful responsibilities in our constitutional system as chief executive officer, head of state, and commander in chief. Those powers do not include the authority to make laws or to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore.
It is critical that Americans understand the Obama Administration’s mode of operation. The law has not stood in its way. Congress has not stood in its way. It seems to recognize no authority but its own.