Did President Obama study American civics when he was in school? One among many who wonders is Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who heads the House Judiciary Committee. Recently Goodlatte held hearings to determine what steps Congress might take to rein in a president who governs by edict without regard for the constitutional limits on the executive branch.
Said the Virginia lawmaker:
Our Constitution is clear: Congress writes our laws, the Judiciary interprets them, and the Executive enforces them. But for the past five years, President Obama has waived, amended, or ignored our laws and has bypassed the Congress, issuing executive decrees from the Oval Office rather than working with Americans’ elected representatives in Congress.
Immigration policy is one of the most flagrant examples of this usurpation of authority. In 2010 Congress voted not to offer legal status (amnesty) to illegal aliens in the Dream Act category. But two years later, the President simply decreed that to be. Instead of enforcing the law that Congress refused to change, Obama ignored it and acted as if he had the authority of the legislative branch.
Most interestingly, about a year prior to that edict, the President conceded that he had no such authority. But with pressure on him from amnesty advocates, he evidently allowed expediency to trump his stated principle.
Having gotten away with that, the President may feel that he can do the same thing again if the House fails to pass an amnesty bill this year or next. Earlier this year, he threatened to use his “pen” and “phone” to make his wishes law if Congress fails to act as he thinks it should on immigration and other issues.
Goodlatte’s hearings aim to advance legislation to stop this kind of unilateral executive action. The congressman deserves credit for his effort. Our constitutional system of checks and balances among the branches of government offers a formidable bulwark against authoritarian government. But the system will fail if a branch is too timid to defend its legitimate rights against usurpation.
Success requires commitment to the rule of law. And on this point Congressman Goodlatte might do some soul searching, as one who has endorsed legislative action to give legal status to most of the illegal aliens in the U.S. While doing this by an act of Congress would uphold the proper separation of powers, it would undermine the principle of law by rewarding people who have broken it.
Obama’s actions have not taken place in a vacuum. Past amnesties have created an attitude that immigration laws, which uphold our national sovereignty, are not significant. And being insignificant, they can be disregarded on a whim. Government by whim is another name for dictatorship.