What amazes me is the failure of Americans to really appreciate how desperate the GOP House has become to de-legitimize President Obama - so desperate that they initiate a Bill that amounts to a "Legislative Veto" of the President, something the Supreme Court has already struck down as a violation of the Separation of Powers between Congress (Article I) and the Executive (Article II), see Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha (462 U.S. 919, 1983). So why should we be amazed by this effort to further de-legitimize Mr. Obama? Because it ironically establishes that despite the rhetoric from the Right that the President should be impeached (Fast and Furious, IRA, Benghazi), there is NO evidence of Constitutionally mandated "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" or any alleged "misfeasance or malfeasance." If the House actually believed President Obama was guilty of such offenses, they already have the Constitutional authority to pass Articles of Impeachment and move for a trial in the Senate for his removal from office. But that won't happen and they know it. Even if the GOP gains control of the Senate this fall (not a sure bet), they still would not have enough votes to meet the required 2/3 necessary for removal. So the proposed "Imperial Presidency Check Bill" really falls into the rhetoric category intended to assuage the GOP Base as Republicans head into re-election season. You see, just being Anti-Obama guarantees support from their base. Instead of running on a platform filled with ideas for America, the GOP is campaigning solely instead on an "Anti-Obama" platform. Although this campaign strategy might very well work in the 2014 Mid-Terms, it will surely be an empty platform as we (soon) head into the 2016 Presidential Campaign.
But back to the "Imperial Presidency Check" nonsense. Members of Congress are fully aware that Presidents interpret the laws enacted by Congress and solely determine how the Executive Branch will enforce them. In fact,
since the Monroe Administration, presidents have been using Signing Statements in a direct effort to replace Executive interpretation of Bills for the actual intentions provided by the Congress that presented the laws. But it was not until the Reagan era that Signing Statements were being used to shift interpretations away from the intent of Congress and instead shift interpretation authority to the Executive. According to The American Presidency Project ("APP"), President Bill Clinton signed more Signing Statements than any other president, yet George W. Bush signed more that directly affected the interpretation and enforcement of Congressional legislation. According to the APP, President George W. Bush executed Signing Statements that directly altered the legislative intent of over 750 Congressional Acts (See http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/signingstatements.php?year=1984).
My point is this. Under Article II of the United States Constitution, the Executive has the power to enforce all laws. As a result, he may chose to kill bills through the use of the Veto or he may utilize what we now commonly know as "Signing Statements" to enforce them as he/she sees fit. In the event any Congress dislikes how the President is interpreting an Act, they can either choose to pass a new Act that specifically limits the interpretation of the Executive (which will then clearly require a Veto override) or can choose to impeach the recalcitrant Executive. But to grant themselves extra-constitutional authority to veto the president by initiating some sort of legal action against the executive is something both outside the realm of the Constitution and would again assert a form of legislative veto, already denied to them by the Supreme Court. But haven't all presidents been considered "Imperial" by opponents in Congress?
Andrew Jackson was the first president to assert his constitutional authority to veto multiple Congressional Acts. Even though the Veto is provided in the Constitution, Jackson extensively used his Veto power to assert independence from an opposition Congress. As a result, Congress labeled Jackson "King Andrew", yet they had no authority to check the power being wielded by a president. And today, instead of calling President Obama "King" we instead hear rhetoric that he is a "Dictator" or a "Tyrant" for exercising the authority actually granted to him under Article II and under the existing principle of "Custom and Usage." You see, once Presidents gain powers, they never give them up. And all Congress can do is either use the power of Veto Override or Impeachment. They have no authority under the Constitution to "Sue" the President for exercising his established authority.
Opposing President Obama is one thing, attempting to change the separation of powers between Constitutionally created institutions is another. Perhaps the Framers anticipated Congress wanting to check the President beyond the veto override powers when they wrote the "Take Care Provision" in Article II? Perhaps it was their way of ensuring a President will not be co-opted by a Congress driven by political ideology? When challenged by his political opposition in Congress, President Andrew Jackson once replied, "It is settled by the Constitution, the laws, and the whole practice of the government that the entire executive power is vested in the President of the United States." Will Americans ever learn their history? I bet the Framers and "King Andrew" wished they had! Have a great week!
Looking forward to acting as the Social Studies Content Expert at next week's Sarasota County Academic Olympic Championships and as the Keynote Speaker at the Annual Dinner of the Larimer County Democrats in Fort Collins, Colorado before I then head off to address a group of students in New York.