George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday 26 February that President Barack Obama has been unconstitutionally taking an unprecedented amount of power for himself. Turley pointed out that Congress remains passive in this matter, taking no significant actions to stop Obama.
Given the issues at stake in this debate, it is vital that we speak plainly about the current conflicts between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government. There has been a massive gravitational shift of authority to the Executive Branch that threatens the stability and functionality of our tripartite system. To be sure, this shift did not begin with President Obama. However, it has accelerated at an alarming rate under this Administration. These changes are occurring in a political environment with seemingly little oxygen for dialogue, let alone compromise. Indeed, the current anaerobic conditions are breaking down the muscle of the constitutional system that protects us all. Of even greater concern is the fact that the other two branches appear passive, if not inert, as the Executive Branch has assumed such power.
Professor Turley is a Liberal and makes this clear in his next paragraph. However, Professor Turley places our Constitutional Federal Government above political ideological gain.
As someone who voted for President Obama and agrees with many of his policies, it is often hard to separate the ends from the means of presidential action. Indeed, despite decades of thinking and writing about the separation of powers, I have had momentary lapses where I privately rejoiced in seeing actions on goals that I share, even though they were done in the circumvention of Congress. For example, when President Obama unilaterally acted on greenhouse gas pollutants, I was initially relieved. I agree entirely with the priority that he has given this issue. However, it takes an act of willful blindness to ignore that the greenhouse regulations were implemented only after Congress rejected such measures and that a new sweeping regulatory scheme is now being promulgated solely upon the authority of the President.
Professor Turley makes it clear that President Obama cannot act without Congress when the participation of Congress is required by our Constitution.
Convenience has long been the enemy of principle in politics. It is not enough to refer to the value of a program to justify its extraconstitutional means. Such constitutional relativism cuts the entire system free of its moorings; leaving the system adrift in a sea of politics where the ability to act is treated as synonymous with the authority to act. There is no license in our system to act, as President Obama has promised, “with or without Congress”3 in these areas. During periods of political division, compromise is clearly often hard to come by. That reflects a divided country as a whole. Such opposition cannot be the justification for circumvention of the legislative branch.
Professor Turley’s entire commentary is very much worth reading. He concludes with the stern warning that Obama must be stopped now and the power-grabbling trend of Obama be halted and reversed.
The only thing that joins us is our common faith in a system that has weathered wars, depression, and civil unrest. The current passivity of Congress represents a crisis of faith for members willing to see a president assume legislative powers in exchange for insular policy gains. The short-term, insular victories achieved by this President will come at a prohibitive cost if the current imbalance is not corrected. Constitutional authority is easy to lose in the transient shifts of politics. It is far more difficult to regain. If a passion for the Constitution does not motivate members, perhaps a sense of self- preservation will be enough to unify members. President Obama will not be our last president. However, these acquired powers will be passed to his successors. When that occurs, members may loathe the day that they remained silent as the power of government shifted so radically to the Chief Executive. The powerful personality that engendered this loyalty will be gone, but the powers will remain.
We are now at the constitutional tipping point for our system. If balance is to be reestablished, it must begin before this President leaves office and that will likely require every possible means to reassert legislative authority. No one in our system can “go it alone” – not Congress, not the courts, and not the President. We are stuck with each other in a system of shared powers—for better or worse. We may deadlock or even despise each other. The Framers clearly foresaw such periods. They lived in such a period. Whatever problems we are facing today in politics, they are problems of our own making. They should not be used to take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for over 250 years.
Hopefully enough elected members Congress will listen and will act before it is too late and Obama becomes our solidly entrenched Communist Dictator.