Executive power that won’t stop

President Barack Obama declared 2014 a “year of action,” but what kind of action can we expect?

by Derek Olson

After five years of a derelict relationship with Congress, President Barack Obama has revved up his rhetoric about not needing those other 535 elected officials. Last year, Obama said he would act “with or without Congress.” Last week, he had the temerity to say, “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation. … I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” Given his record, this language should perturb Americans who value the separation of powers.

This is a president who has violated the Constitution on more occasions than there is space to list in this column. For one example, the Constitution couldn’t be clearer that the power to declare war is held exclusively by Congress. Yet, that didn’t stop Obama from sending troops to war in Libya without congressional approval. He almost did the same in Syria, publicly purporting that he had the authority to do so.

The Obama administration has rewritten numerous parts of the Affordable Care Act at its own discretion. These include unilaterally delaying multiple provisions and exempting Congress. Obama and his administration are not the legislative branch. They do not have the authority to change laws by their own caprices.

It’s not as if past presidents haven’t stretched the limits of constitutionality. In recent decades, seemingly every administration has pushed the envelope further than the last. However, while in the past these violations have been questionably defensible, the current administration has clearly surpassed dubiety.

In 2012, Obama declared Congress in recess in order to bypass Senate approval on his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled it unconstitutional. Even liberal justices on the U.S. Supreme Court indicated a strong likelihood to rule against the president when they heard oral arguments last week.

Obama has shown that he and his staff have little respect for the Constitution. If Obama were more candid, I suspect we’d hear something similar to President Richard Nixon’s declaration that “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”