Congress Must Check Obama’s Power

John Vinson's picture

By John Vinson

John is a Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A long-time advocate of conservation and responsible use of natural resources, John is president of the American Immigration Control Foundation.

The writer's views are his own. 

August 12, 2014

In response to President Obama’s threats to proclaim a new amnesty edict, the House passed a bill to curtail such actions. Specifically it would defund the DACA amnesty, proclaimed by Obama two years ago, which granted legal status and work permits to illegal aliens in the Dream Act category. It also would ban future edicts of this type. The measure is symbolic because the Democrat-majority Senate won’t pass it. Nevertheless, it is a vitally necessary step.Obama laughing with Constitution quote

By proclaiming law, Obama is violating the constitutional separation of powers. Under the Constitution, Congress is supposed to make law, and the president is supposed to enforce it. If a president unilaterally proclaims law, without regard for Congress, he is acting in a dictatorial fashion, which poses a threat to our constitutional liberties.

When one branch improperly exercises power, the Constitution provides means for the other branches to check that power. In this situation, however, reaction by the Legislative branch has been late in coming. In 2010, Congress voted against passage of the Dream Act amnesty. Supporters of the legislation were furious and urged Obama simply to proclaim it. At first he refused, rightly conceding that he didn’t have the authority to do so. But as the pressure on him mounted, he unilaterally proclaimed it anyway.

Unfortunately, Congress did nothing for two years, and thereby emboldened Obama to threaten another amnesty edict, this one for as many as five million more illegal aliens. A big reason for the lack of response was the barely concealed sympathy of the Republican leadership for amnesty. Significantly, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has proposed a lawsuit against Obama’s usurpations of power, but none of the violations listed include what the president has done on immigration.

The House vote against DACA and similar edicts came as a backlash from House Republicans who were tired of Boehner’s inaction on this issue. The vote was a necessary first step, but more steps probably will have to follow to serve Obama sufficient notice that he can no longer decree immigration laws.

Some of these House Republicans are now threatening impeachment proceedings if the president carries through with his threat to declare another amnesty. He has indicated that he may do so by the end of the summer. His justification is that he needs to act because Congress has refused to pass amnesty. Somehow it doesn’t seem to register with the President that his desires don’t permit him to ignore the Constitution.

Attempting to remove a president through impeachment is admittedly a draconian move, and one that will bring much rancor and division to the nation. Certainly, it should only come as a last resort. At the same time, Obama must feel sufficient pressure to change the course he is now following. As Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) rightly observed, the president’s actions and rhetoric are leading us to a “constitutional crisis.”

If impeachment is too far to go, members of the House and Senate who care about constitutional government must decide what other steps they can take to rein in the White House. What’s at stake goes beyond immigration. At risk is our liberty.

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