A resolution to “fast-track” independent reviews of executive actions; another requiring only action by the House of Representatives to bring a lawsuit against the president. These are only two of the proposals the House Judiciary Committee heard on Wednesday, when it sought legislative means to keep the president's use of executive authority in check.
Asserting that he has been overstepping the boundaries of his constitutional authority, committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., accused President Barack Obama of creating an “uber-presidency.” Balance to the system of separation of powers, he said, must be restored.
At issue are Obama's actions to use his administrative powers to unilaterally delay the implementation of portions of laws such as Obamacare, and to move forward on gridlocked issues like comprehensive immigration reform. The president also recently promised that while he is willing to work with Congress on his priority issues, he will go it alone if the legislative branch fails to act.
“These have not been empty proclamations,” Goodlatte said of what he called Obama’s refusal to take “no” for an answer.
“It is up to the Congress and the courts to check the president’s overreach and restore balance to our system of government,” he said.
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George Washington University legal scholar Jonathan Turley, who was a part of panel during Wednesday’s hearing, said the president's use of executive power threatens the stability and functioning of the nation’s three-pronged system. This “massive gravitational shift of authority” didn’t begin with Obama, Turley said, it just “accelerated at an alarming rate” under his presidency.
Turley did not cast blame solely on the executive branch. And, the fact that this alleged abuse of power is occurring in a political environment lacking dialogue and compromise worries him.
“The current anaerobic conditions are breaking down the muscle of the constitutional system that protects us all,” Turley wrote in a testimony to the committee. “Of even greater concern is the fact that the other two branches appear passive, if not inert, as the executive branch has assumed such power.”
But others argued that Obama’s action has been within his purview.
Duke University law professor Christopher Schroeder said that in using its executive authority, the administration isn’t claiming the right to suspend or refuse to enforce any law.
“The president’s duty is to take care that the law is faithfully executed, not that it is flawlessly executed,” Schroeder said, adding that no president can flawlessly execute the law.
The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee held a similar hearing in December, seeking to find out if there was presidential overreach. That another is being held had angered some Democrats, who dismissed the hearing as farce.
Ranking member Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who was chairman of the committee when the Democrtas had the majority, said the inquiry would have been more fruitful if there were any evidence that the president failed to fulfill his duties. Instead, he said the hearing was another attempt by the Republican majority to thwart Obama’s implementation of initiatives they oppose, such as the health care law.
Extending some deadlines related to the law, Conyers said, isn’t failure to take care that the law is implemented, but “it is rather a necessary part of meeting the obligation.”