Obama's Disregard For Our Constitution And The Rule Of Law
Investors Business Daily
Feb 16, 2012 -
Our democracy was threatened early this year by a presidential power play. On Jan. 4, President Obama announced his appointments of three individuals to the National Labor Relations Board, plus Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These appointments were unprecedented and raise serious constitutional concerns.
The Constitution gives the president the authority to "fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate." But these appointments were made while the Senate was not in recess — something no other president has tried. This attempt to ignore Senate approval sets a dangerous precedent.
The Senate has the power to determine "the rules of its proceedings," and it did not believe it was in recess when these appointments were made. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated on the Senate floor regarding a similar period in 2007: "The Senate will be coming in for pro forma sessions ... to prevent recess appointments."
What was acceptable in 2007 should be equally acceptable today. Pro forma sessions were never meant to be an open invitation for the administration to appoint whomever it likes to government positions.
Not only was the Senate not in recess when the president made these appointments, it appears that under the Constitution it legally could not have been.
The Constitution provides that neither house of Congress may adjourn for more than three consecutive days without the consent of the other house.
Accordingly, the Senate could not have adjourned its session and gone into recess without the consent of the House, which the House did not give.
Despite these facts, the president claimed the unilateral authority to declare the Senate is in recess for purposes of recess appointments. The president's disregard for the Constitution was an affront to the American people.
American voters rely on elected officials to abide by the system of government our Founders established for the preservation of freedom. Elected officials are not allowed to make up their own rules as they go along.
Unfortunately, these appointments continue the pattern of this president bypassing Congress and exerting executive power past constitutional and customary limits. For example, when his cap-and-trade legislation failed to pass Congress, he had the Environmental Protection Agency issue equivalent regulations instead.
When Congress refused to enact the president's "card check" legislation doing away with secret ballots in union elections, the president's National Labor Relations Board imposed the change by administrative decree.
And when Congress defeated the Dream Act, the president's illegal immigration amnesty proposal, the administration instructed immigration officials to adopt enforcement measures that often bring about the same result as the Dream Act.
In addition to disrespecting Congress' constitutional authority when Congress has refused to enact his policy preferences, the president has also ignored laws passed by Congress.
For instance, rather than seeking legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the president simply instructed his Justice Department to stop defending its constitutionality.
And the president ignored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by failing to give religious organizations an exemption from the Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate.
One of the fundamental principles of American democracy is that we are a nation of laws. America's elected leaders swear to uphold our Constitution and our laws even when they do not agree with them. With these recess appointments, the president may have violated the Constitution by disregarding the rule of law.
Smith, a Republican representing Texas' 21st congressional district, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.