by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
That we are proud of our institutions is understandable. But our unshakeable confidence in their permanence is not. There is nothing written in the stars that secures in perpetuity our free system of laws. There are no stone tablets upon which legislative supremacy and judicial integrity are guaranteed against usurpation. Men’s hearts are no less ambitious this week than they were in the era of the pyramids.
As I write, the president of the United States is openly promising to finish off his second term with a flurry of extraconstitutional activity. By the power invested in his “pen and phone,” Barack Obama intends to wield his “executive authority” in order to institute a set of environmental rules that the people’s representatives have declined to grant him; to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in direct defiance of Congress’s will; and to further circumvent a series of immigration laws that have been on the books for decades.
These are no idle threats. In his second term alone, this president has rewritten by fiat some of the central portions of his signature legislation, Obamacare; granted a series of unauthorized waivers from the 1996 Welfare Reform Act; and instructed agencies such as the IRS and the EPA to push forward with the enforcement of a series of administrative rules that simply cannot be justified by the texts of their enabling statutes. Most alarmingly of all, he has repeatedly made it clear that these actions are not the natural outworking of legal ambiguity, but a deliberate response to congressional inaction. Once upon a time, Obama insisted that he was “not a king” or an “emperor” or a “dictator,” and confirmed that his “job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law.” Now he justifies his behavior with talk of necessity and vows that if “Congress won’t act,” he will.