Blame Congress for Enabling Obama's Unilateral Executive Actions


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Writing at the Los Angeles Times, South Texas College of Law at Houston professor Josh Blackman argues that any analysis of President Barack Obama's unilateral executive action on immigration must begin with the fact that "Congress shares in the blame for acquiescing to decades of presidential power grabs." As Blackman notes, "under the Constitution, Congress passes laws, the president enforces them and the courts interpret them. Alas, that constitutional order has broken down."

Today, most of the complicated statutes Congress passes are deliberately vague, and provide scant guidance about how the law should be understood. Rather, in most cases the legislative branch has delegated to the president the sole responsibility to decide what the law should be, how and when to implement it, and even whether to enforce it at all. So long as Congress gives the president a nebulous "intelligible principle" of how to proceed, the most ill-defined statutes will meet constitutional muster.

Presidents have seized on this flexibility to implement myriad regulations that govern all aspects of our lives, which sometimes have only a fleeting relationship with the intent of Congress. For example, it was the Institute of Medicine (a private organization), not Congress, that determined that religious nonprofits were required to pay for emergency contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. Congress shirks its duty and lets unnamed bureaucrats make controversial decisions.

Read the whole thing here.