By Congressman Joe Pitts
It’s one of the first things you learn in government class: Separation of Powers. It’s one of the things we’re most proud about in the American form of government. The Constitution was designed with a system of checks and balances that would prevent any one person or branch of government from becoming dominant. All three branches of the government would be subject to the Constitution but would also be checked by the other two.
The system only works properly when federal officials, both elected and appointed, enforce the law regardless of their opinions or preferences. In John Adams’ words, we have “A government of laws and not of men.”
However, this President and his administration have taken to ignoring laws that they find inconvenient rather than coming to Congress to have the law amended. This is not only a recipe for chaos, but it is a horrible precedent that could have lasting harm on our nation.
The most recent evidence of this is in the way the President has implemented his own health care law. Because of the sloppy way the bill was written, we continue to discover serious problems with it. Instead of admitting that his law is flawed, the President keeps saying it’s great while ignoring it’s obvious deficiencies.
Two weeks ago, the administration announced the delay of the employer mandate under a blog post titled: “Continuing to Implement the ACA in a Careful, Thoughtful Manner.” Never mind that the post went on to detail how part of the law was not being implemented. Nancy Pelosi even tried to claim that the mandate was not being delayed at all, just the enforcement mechanism.
There are other instances of the Administration ignoring the clear meaning of the law. Obamacare explicitly bars individuals in federally-run healthcare exchanges from receiving a particular tax benefit. Opposition to Obamacare remains strong, and most states have declined set up the insurance exchanges provided for in the law. The tax benefit was designed to get them to do it, but they don't have to do it. The President's IRS has responded by arguing that Congress actually "intended" to give the tax benefit to people in federally-run exchanges. The law says exactly the opposite. In our system, only Congress can change that. But the Administration has chosen, instead, to tell us that the law means one thing when it explicitly says the opposite. That's not acceptable.
The Keystone XL pipeline has sat waiting for approval for over four years now. The pipeline went through the standard State Department environmental review years ago and was demonstrated to be safe. Now, the President is demanding a higher standard that doesn’t exist in law just to satisfy his environmental allies. Again, he is exceeding his authority.
In the first two years of his term, the President had complete control of Congress but avoided acting on immigration reform. Now, he is so eager to get reform that unilaterally chose to stop enforcing the law when it comes to younger illegal immigrants. Immigration agents, confused about the new rules, have had a hard time enforcing rules even on criminal illegal immigrants. His action was popular with many people, but again he is choosing which laws to enforce.
The President picked longtime union employees to the National Labor Relations Board that governs both unions and employers. Despite the fact that the Senate was in session, the President unilaterally claimed they were in recess and used his power to appoint two members to the board. Courts have ruled that these appointments were unconstitutional but the NLRB continues to enforce rules approved under these board members.
In Egypt, the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood president just a few weeks ago. Every press outlet in the world labeled it a “coup.” The administration won’t recognize reality because the law would require cutting off aid. We may want to continue aid, but we should change the rules, not redefine what a coup is.
Both the President and now the Pennsylvania Attorney General have refused to defend laws upholding traditional marriage. The President originally ran on a platform supporting traditional marriage, but quickly put policies in place that undermined the laws that protected it.
If the President can do whatever he wants, then there is no real point to Congress or the judiciary. The scales are tipping heavily toward the executive branch and we need the American people to stand up and insist that our checks and balances be respected. No one should be above the law.