Will Republican Leaders Do More Than Talk About the Constitution?

FedUp PAC StaffWill Republican Leaders Do More Than Talk About the Constitution?

Paul Ryan has announced the House Republicans’ plan to enforce the U.S. Constitution, especially in regard to the separation of powers. However, after five and a half years when the House Republican majority has usually offered mere protests instead of action against Obama’s usurpation of unconstitutional powers, the public is justified in wondering if this is simply more words without any intention of producing results.

The plan’s introduction could easily have been written by those who have been demanding House action since the Republican majority took office in 2011. It warns that liberty is “in jeopardy when a branch [of the Federal government] fails to exercise its power.” It admits that “Congress has let this power atrophy – thereby depriving the people of their voice.” It recognizes that Congress has sometimes even consented to power grabs by the president.

So what do the House Republicans propose to do, and should we believe that they really intend to do it? Is this a true call to battle, or campaign rhetoric without substance?

Potentially most encouraging is a promise to “exercise the power of the purse.” Conceding that “Congress has routinely ceded control over spending to the executive branch,” the reader might assume that this would be followed by a promise to finally eliminate funding for ObamaCare, amnesty programs, anti-energy regulations, and much more.

There are no such promises. Instead there is talk about greater oversight by committees, passing individual appropriations bills, regaining control over funds now within presidential discretion, and modernizing the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Having backed down over defunding ObamaCare in 2013, and again backed down over defunding amnesty in 2015, it appears that Speaker Ryan and his allies have no intention of taking on the issues that have their constituents up in arms.

One proposal which would genuinely shift power from the president to Congress is making programs temporary, with a specific ending date. This would require action by Congress to keep the program going. If Congress did nothing, the program would die. If Congress insisted on making changes to the program, the president would have to either accept the changes or bring the program to an end by vetoing the entire bill. Unfortunately, Congress can only insist on this when enacting new programs. Legislation attempting to “sunset” existing programs could be vetoed by the president.

Presidential mischief could also be reduced by a proposal that laws be written so specifically that no executive branch rulemaking would be required, and that rulemaking be explicitly prohibited. However, given that Congress often prefers to pass bills with a vagueness that leaves tough decisions to the regulators, there is little chance of seeing this recommendation followed. Requiring that all regulations be submitted to Congress is likely to be just as unpopular, since it would force members of Congress to take sides. However, the suggestion that the Federal courts be given greater authority to hear cases regarding regulations and broader grounds for striking them down might have a chance, since it puts judges on the spot, not Congress. Still, this would continue to leave final power with appointed rather than elected officials.

Anyone who recognizes the importance of the Constitution should applaud the suggestion that a law be passed to make it clear that Congress has standing to sue the President and expediting a judicial decision for such cases. However, the House could pass such a law right now, yet the 114th Congress has only a few months left in its two-year term and no action has been taken. Furthermore, the House arguably already has the right to sue (a right which was recently upheld by a Federal judge), yet it has chosen to file suit against only one of the many apparent violations of the Constitution by President Obama. If so little is being done now, why should we expect more next year?

President Obama has been carrying out a war against the Constitution, becoming the maker as well as the enforcer of the laws. So far, Republicans in Congress have shown little backbone in response. If they want Americans to believe that next year will be different, they should start right now. Mere promises to do something someday are not enough.