Stretching executive power beyond the bounds of reasonableness has been a hallmark of President Obama’s administration. When his policies fail to make it through Congress, he imposes “laws” by executive fiat. When he disagrees with the law or finds it politically expedient not to enforce the law, he ignores it, skirts it or makes dubious claims of prosecutorial discretion.
This expansive view of executive power is not what our Constitution envisions. In fact, the president has a constitutional duty to “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” He does not have the power to make or suspend the law, but time and again, that is precisely what President Obama has done. From making sham “recess” appointments to waiving the 1996 welfare reform work requirement to implementing the Dream Act with the stroke of a pen, he has routinely bypassed Congress and violated the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. Pointing to inaction and dysfunction in Congress, President Obama says, “Where they won’t act, I will.”
No discussion of abusive executive power would be complete without mentioning Obamacare. With nearly 30 delays and unilateral changes to the law, the law in operation looks vastly different from what Congress passed in 2010.
There’s the new “hardship” exemption from the individual mandate to purchase insurance; congressional staff insurance subsidies that flagrantly violate the law; allowing insurance companies to continue offering plans that fail to meet the required coverage until 2016; and delaying until 2016 the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees provide certain coverage.
All these changes have been made without Congress passing a single amendment to the law. Some of these actions can be (and have been) challenged in court, but many cannot. In those instances, the only recourse is the ballot box.
This is the same president who once claimed President George W. Bush was “trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all,” and who promised to bring change to Washington. Now we are realizing that this “change” means less accountability and increasingly lawless action.
Obama’s unfaithful execution of the law seems to include an ostensible power to ignore or revise laws he doesn’t like. Indeed, as liberal law professor Jonathan Turley has noted, President Obama is “becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid.”
- Elizabeth Slattery is a senior legal policy analyst in the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Originally appeared in U.S. News and World Report