We often think of the Constitution as protecting the rights of the people, but that document also provides the foundation for our liberty by securing a structure of government.
Over the past six years we have seen President Obama govern with seemingly total disrespect for the Constitution, and the roles of the states and the legislative branch. What he cannot achieve legislatively, he accomplishes through unilateral action without regard for Congress or the states.
While this may be the most expeditious way to achieve his agenda, it leads to lawlessness and flies in the face of the constitutional principles of the rule of law, federalism and separation of powers upon which our democracy is built.
STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL are the last line of defense against the burdensome, and oftentimes unconstitutional, policies of the Obama administration. We have banded together time and time again to protect our states and constituents from the unconstitutional executive overreach of the federal government. Currently we are engaged in two high-stakes challenges to what we believe are unlawful actions by the Obama administration.
The first case is a direct challenge by a coalition of more than half of our states to the president’s proposed revision of the nation’s immigration laws by regulatory action. The Department of Homeland Security directive issued last fall usurped the power of Congress to make and change laws. That rule not only puts on hold deportations of 4 million undocumented immigrants, but also grants affirmative rights that Congress has not debated or passed.
As the complaint itself states, the lawsuit is not about immigration. It is about the rule of law. We are a nation proudly strengthened by immigrants, and everyone agrees that immigration reform is sorely needed. But we are also a nation of laws. The president simply does not have the authority to bypass Congress and single-handedly change the law. As the president himself recognized on April 20, 2011, “I can’t solve this problem by myself. ... We’re going to have to change the laws in Congress... .”
On Feb. 16, federal Judge Andrew Hanen granted the injunction sought by the states to block the implementation of the president’s directive, saying “the public interest factor that weighs the heaviest is ensuring the actions of the Executive Branch ... comply with this country’s laws and its Constitution.”
WHILE I AM PLEASED with the judge’s ruling, I was deeply troubled to subsequently learn that the Obama administration already had begun granting expanded employment authorizations to people who came to this country illegally. On April 7, Judge Hanen ruled that the administration’s lawyers had engaged in “misconduct” by repeatedly suggesting that no implementation had yet been initiated. We should expect more from our federal government.
The second is the case of King v. Burwell, which was brought to challenge the president on his refusal to follow the language of the Affordable Care Act as enacted by Congress. The law clearly states that only exchanges established by the states will be eligible for subsidies. In fact, the drafters of the Affordable Care Act intentionally excluded subsidies for federal exchanges from the law to pressure states into establishing their own exchanges. One architect of the law has even admitted as much.
Now that this coercive approach has proven unsuccessful, the president has chosen to disregard the plain wording of the law. If President Obama wishes to revise the Affordable Care Act and the ensuing problems it he has created, he must follow the Constitution – and that means working with Congress to amend the law.
Any problems caused by the Supreme Court’s ruling rest squarely on the president’s shoulders, but I believe Congress can fulfill its constitutional responsibilities in the face of a ruling against the Affordable Care Act. The people deserve that, and our Constitution demands it.
I spend considerably more time than I would like monitoring – and fighting – the rules, regulations and executive decrees handed down by the president and his agencies. But I took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, and it is my duty to do just that – even if it means challenging the president of the United States.