Friday, August 01, 2014

Supreme Court raps Obama on presidential power grab

6/27/2014

President Obama doesn’t need Congress.

He’s made that sentiment abundantly clear — both in word and deed. During the past five and a half years of his presidency, Obama has irked U.S. lawmakers by brazenly using workarounds to ignore their authority and get what he wants sooner rather than later. From hiring his infamous “czars” to run areas of government without Congressional approval to skirting the process of lawmaking by letting federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency impose rules without public vetting, Obama is a big fan of getting his way, and getting it fast — without pesky opposition from the legislative branch.

President Obama doesn’t need Congress.

He’s made that sentiment abundantly clear — both in word and deed. During the past five and a half years of his presidency, Obama has irked U.S. lawmakers by brazenly using workarounds to ignore their authority and get what he wants sooner rather than later. From hiring his infamous “czars” to run areas of government without Congressional approval to skirting the process of lawmaking by letting federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency impose rules without public vetting, Obama is a big fan of getting his way, and getting it fast — without pesky opposition from the legislative branch.

That’s why he began military operations in Libya in 2011 without Congressional approval. That’s why he pushed forward with ideological efforts that couldn’t pass muster at the Capitol — stopping deportations of certain illegal immigrants, raising the minimum wage for certain workers and extending family and medical leave benefits to same-sex couples — using the stroke of his presidential pen. That’s why he released five terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in a prisoner exchange without first consulting Congress.

The law be damned, many of Obama’s supporters vapidly contend; the president must do what he thinks is right — and right now.

In at least one case, the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees.

The nation’s high court this week ruled unanimously that Obama violated the U.S. Constitution in 2012 by trying to sneak appointments onto the National Labor Relations Board because he knew the candidates were unlikely to get Senate approval, as mandated by law. Obama argued he had the power to make recess appointments when the Senate was not in session. Trouble is, the president fudged the rules — the Senate was in session — and got caught.

The court ruling against Obama nullifies all decisions since January 2012 made by the illegally appointed board members, Democrats Sharon Block, Terrence Flynn and Richard Griffin.

“The Obama Administration has a bad habit of sidestepping Congress and ignoring the Constitution when they find it politically convenient,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said Thursday. “This decision by the Supreme Court puts both the U.S. Constitution and best interests of Americans first.”

In limiting the president’s authority, Derek Schmidt, Kansas attorney general, said Thursday, smaller states’ voices are protected from being drowned out by the federal government.

“Going forward, there will be times when [this week’s] decision benefits Democrats and other times when it benefits Republicans,” Schmidt said. “But protecting the role of the United States Senate — where our Founding Fathers gave every state an equal voice — in selecting key federal officers will always benefit small states like Kansas. And preventing the president from ignoring the Constitution’s checks and balances will always benefit every American’s liberty.”

With Obama billed as a “Constitutional law professor” during his presidential candidacy, a person typically would assume he understands the systems of checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches to which Schmidt refers. But there apparently is a stark difference between knowing the law and respecting the law.

Imagine if Obama’s unconstitutional power grab were allowed to go unchecked. We could have the U.S. Justice Department stalking and wiretapping journalists critical of his administration while Obama campaign officials monitor reporters’ social media posts. We could have the Internal Revenue Service turned into a political enforcement and bullying agency, targeting conservatives with threats of investigation and prosecution. We could have the National Security Agency launching widespread, indiscriminate eavesdropping programs on everyday Americans.

Oh, wait. All that already happened.

Defenders of the president’s tactics typically blame President Bush for creating the circumstances in which Obama must get his hands dirty. If that doesn’t work, they point to Republican “obstructionists” who prevent the president from getting “meaningful” work done the legal — and Constitutional — way. The ends apparently justify the means (though they likely wouldn’t give the same benefit of the doubt to a Republican president).

Lost on such people is the reality that our three branches of government weren’t crafted for immediacy. The gears of Washington grind slowly by design, but the gridlock Obama rails against is, in part, a byproduct of the hostile and contentious environment he’s helped to perpetuate. Whether he wants to admit it, the president is just as much of the problem as his Republican adversaries whose kneejerk response to everything is a hearty “No!”

Americans should be encouraged by the Supreme Court’s move to limit executive power, but remember Obama’s disdain for opposition isn’t relegated to Congress alone. While the president beams at court decisions that fall in his ideological favor, he continues to bash those with which he doesn’t agree — see Citizens United and Voting Rights Act rulings. For Obama, a high court decision is unquestionably the law of the land, end of story, period — except when it isn’t.

Will this week’s ruling stymie presidential overreach?

Depends on whether Obama is willing to audaciously defy both Congress and the Supreme Court.

Who needs them anyway?

Tommy Felts,

managing editor

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