Friday, November 14, 2014

A Dictatorial President Obama versus the American People’s Congress

A Dictatorial President Obama versus the American People’s Congress:


November 14, 2014

Newt Gingrich

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One of the great ironies of this administration is that President Obama, who ran promising to end wars in the Middle East and to usher in unity domestically, is now preparing to start a political war in America.

In this month’s elections, Republicans, independents and a few Democrats united to defeat Democrats at every level from state legislatures to the U.S. Senate. Many Democrats indicated their disappointment with the Obama Administration by staying home and refusing to vote.

As I wrote earlier this week, however, President Obama is behaving as if his side won the elections and he has a resounding mandate to impose his policies on the country by presidential fiat.

It is important to understand that President Obama is not taking on “the Republicans” as he and his allies want to describe it. He is declaring war on the Congress, the elected representatives of the American people, as an institution.

Both the language of the Constitution and the explanations in the Federalist Papers make clear the Founding Fathers intended Congress, not the President, to have the primary role in making laws and setting public policy. The president is supposed to execute laws rather than make them.

Article I, Section I of the Constitution begins: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress”. The term “all legislative powers” is pretty definitive. Federalist 51 asserts that “legislative authority necessarily predominates.” In Federalist 69, a series of distinctions are made between the absolute powers of the British King and the limited powers of the American president.

The Constitution gives the Congress a surprising range of tools to defend itself and to challenge a president who seeks to impose his will upon the country.

The ultimate power is impeachment, but as a political matter impeachment requires the American people to render absolute judgment against the president. It has been tried twice unsuccessfully (against Presidents Johnson and Clinton), although the threat of it drove President Nixon to resign. In this case it’s very clear that the country does not want an impeachment process against President Obama.

The second greatest power of Congress is the spending power, the power of the purse. Money can only be spent if the Congress permits it and either directly or indirectly appropriates it. Taxes, fees, etc. exist only at the sufferance of Congress and can be repealed or limited.

Some people are so furious at President Obama’s various threats that they would like to attach a spending limitation provision to the continuing resolution necessary to keep the government open, thus forcing the President to shut the entire government to defend his right to take unilateral action.

There is no question that a spending limitation amendment is legitimate, Constitutional, and effective. It is the tool Speaker Tip O’Neill used to limit President Reagan on Nicaragua with the Boland Amendment in 1982.

The question is whether the first step in the effort to reassert Congress’s authority should provoke a full-on crisis.

I think it would be better to set up a series of limitations which cripple the President but don’t hurt the American people.

The current “lame-duck” session should pass a relatively short-term Continuing Resolution which will preserve the new Congress’s ability to use spending provisions as a negotiating tool if the President does not change his behavior.

Then, Senator McConnell could announce that no presidential appointment will be considered by the new Senate until the President agrees to behave within the bounds of his Constitutional authority. Since this would include the new Attorney General and other important presidential appointments, the threat would be real and immediate.

Second, the Appropriations Committee should announce that it will block virtually all executive branch requests for reprogramming (the term for routine reshuffling and rejiggering of budget appropriations) except for on national security issues. The executive branch is constantly having to ask Congress for small adjustments to keep the bureaucracy functioning. Holding up these requests would rapidly increase the pain level to the executive branch.

Third, a spending limitation could be attached to every bill (with rare exceptions) that Congress sends the President. How many bills can he veto to defend his right to run over the vast majority of Americans and the Congress?

Fourth, once the Republicans are in control of the Senate, they can divide the next continuing resolution in two, fund everything the American people care about for the rest of the year in one resolution, and seperate the activities the President values most, attaching them to a spending limitation rider in a second, smaller resolution. Let the President veto spending for his pet programs over an argument he can’t win. Such a selective spending limitation would be very difficult to arouse the American people against but would strike at the heart of the President’s ability to achieve his goals.

Finally, the Appropriations Committee should start targeting individual presidential perks and limit his ability to function by methodically cutting out staff, travel funding, etc.

The Founding Fathers were vividly aware of the dangers of tyranny. They had rebelled against a British King who they felt was tyrannical. They fought a desperate war for eight years against almost hopeless odds to win their independence. They thought freedom was worth the cost.

They designed the Constitution to enable the American people to maintain their freedom. They sought a balance of power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches (defined in that order with the legislature first). They would be appalled at the arrogance and hubris of a president who thought he could impose his will against the Congress.

They would also stand up to the presidential power-grab at all costs, considering it a profound threat to our system of government. The precedent of such unrestrained executive cannot be allowed to stand.

If President Obama wants to declare war on the American people’s Congress, he will presently find himself as isolated and defeated as King George III. This is the dangerous path he is on.

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