History lesson for the president
Congressional speeches are generally hot air: politicians blathering to a largely empty chamber. But on Jan. 9, a discussion in the House of Representatives soared above that mediocrity. For those Americans who worry that Congress no longer cares about preserving the Constitution, the words below will provide reassurance that there are a few people with backbone in Washington, D.C.
Congressman Tom Rice, R-S.C., and several of his 55 co-sponsors defended their resolution calling on the House to sue President Barack Obama in order to compel him to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” as the U.S. Constitution commands. They cited his changes to Obamacare by fiat, his defiance of U.S. immigration law and his waiving the federal work requirement for welfare benefits.
In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled that members of Congress cannot sue the president, and that power struggles between the branches must be resolved politically rather than by judges. Therefore, Resolution 442 has an uphill battle. But the resolution’s backers expressed the bedrock principles of this nation and addressed our gravest danger. Their words are worth remembering. Obama is the danger the U.S. Constitution was written to prevent, because he repeatedly seizes more power than the Constitution allows a president to have.
Tom Rice: “Our Founders, Mr. Speaker, designed a system of government based upon a separation of powers. The legislative branch enacts the laws, and the executive branch, the president, enforces those laws. They did that to protect our very, very fragile freedom. We cannot allow those separations to be eroded. One man who can both make the laws and enforce the laws is more a monarch than a president.
“Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution requires, in part, that the president take care to faithfully execute the nation’s laws. In 1792, when George Washington was faced with enforcing an unpopular whiskey tax, he wrote in a letter that: ‘It is my duty to see that these laws are executed. To permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to that duty.’
“President Obama, on the other hand, has, throughout his administration, picked and chosen which laws or parts thereof he wishes to enforce …
This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democrat issue. It is not a tea party action. This is not for messaging. H.R. 442 merely recognizes that no American, including the president, is above the law.”
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga.: “I think about one of my favorite Democratic Senators Robert Byrd from West Virginia — a champion of Article I of the Constitution. He was a Democrat second; he was an American first, defending the Constitution against presidents, Republican and Democrat, who would take the people’s power from Capitol Hill and take it down to the executive branch.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.: “So this was a huge issue for the Founding Fathers. Clearly, it would not have been acceptable to stand up at the Constitutional Convention and say, ‘Yes, the president is going to have the authority and duty to enforce the laws, but if there are laws he doesn’t like, he will be able to delay provisions or ignore provisions as he sees fit, as long as it is consistent with his overall purpose or political agenda.’ That would not have been acceptable to anybody at the time.
“Can you imagine if when John Adams succeeded George Washington, he just started delaying provisions related to the Bank of the United States or the Jay Treaty? Imagine when Jefferson came in. He ran against the Alien and Sedition Act. Some of those were just allowed to expire, but they went in and repealed a core portion of the Alien and Sedition Act. They didn’t just ignore it. The provisions that expired, expired; and then they repealed the provisions that were still in effect.
“That is the way it is supposed to be done. They would never have allowed John Adams or Jefferson to come in and just willy-nilly enforce what they wanted to and not enforce what they didn’t want to.”
These history lessons should be familiar to our constitutional-lawyer president.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”