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.


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  1. He really loves me and only hits me because I make him mad.

  2. Through the power of the purse, and the drafting of precise laws, [Congress] can steer the separation of powers back to their proper constitutional moorings.

    Also, Congress might want to take an occasional look at the Constitution for, um, guidance.

  3. So, the president is just some kind of drunk, and the congress is buying him booze?

  4. Blaming Congress makes the assumption that decent people could fix things, when the real problem is that the Constitution allows evil. One of the Founding Fathers said something like if all men were angels, there would be no need for government, and if politicians were angels, there’s be no need for a constitution.

    Get rid of police powers, taxation, and all the other evils of coercive, intrusive government.

    1. I think a nice, limited nuclear war, could accomplish that!

    2. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
      ~James Madison, Federalist No. 51

      1. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

        What really annoys me is that the logical extension of that sentiment is a completely decentralized government, ie, the minimum necessary — have victims hire police and prosecutors, not the government. And so on. Yet they left us with a government with police powers, the better to control the ignorant masses.

  5. Plenty of blame to go around, IMO. Congress, the President, and SCOTUS should all be heaped with scorn and derision. People should walk out of restaurants when an elected official or Justice walks in, that kind of thing.

  6. No kidding.

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  8. “Today, most of the complicated statutes Congress passes are deliberately vague, and provide scant guidance about how the law should be understood. ”

    Except ACAwhich explicitly defined State as one of the 50 and certain districts. And yet progs bitch.

  9. I’m going to call bullshit on this argument, considering that the primary reason nothing has been done is that Harry Reid basically decided to use his Senate Majority Leader position to shut down all legislation from the House that either a) might have given credit to Republicans on any issue, or b) the President didn’t want to be on record as vetoing. No revisions, no debate…he simply killed them by refusing to bring them to a vote, whether those bills had Democrat support or not.

    So rather than blaming “Congress” for the mess, I choose to blame Senate Democrat leadership for conspiring to neuter the legislature. Particularly Harry Reid and anyone who voted for him to stay majority leader.

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