By: Chad Kent
Chad Kent Speaks
Clearly frustrated with his inability to get his curiously named “jobs” bill passed, President Obama made the following remarks earlier this week:
“We’re not going to wait for Congress… so my instruction to Jeff and Mallory and all the advisors sitting around the table is… scour this report. Identify all those areas in which we can act administratively without additional congressional authorization and just get it done.”
Remarks to Council on Jobs and Effectiveness, October 11, 2011
What he doesn’t seem to grasp – or more likely is intentionally ignoring – is the fact that he is a part of the Executive branch. This sounds simplistic but it is something we seem to have forgotten: “Executive” means that it is his job to execute laws that are passed by Congress – not create laws of his own.
If you read Article II of the Constitution, you’ll see that there aren’t many powers granted to the president – and most of those require approval from Congress.
It’s not in the President’s job description to implement the policies he wants independently when the will of the people prevents Congress from passing them it into law. But Obama proves that his intention is to do exactly that when he makes statements such as, “we’re not going to wait for Congress” and “just get it done”.
Of course, Congress is just as much to blame for this as President Obama is. For decades the Legislative Branch (Congress) has been passing laws that aren’t really “laws” but rather authorizations for executive agencies to create regulations. Remember, executive agencies like the EPA and the FCC operate in the Executive Branch and are managed by the president.
Why does it matter that executive agencies operate in the Executive Branch? Well, it only matters if you like your freedom:
“When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.” (emphasis mine)
Charles de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws
But even if Congress’s reliance on executive agencies was a great thing – it doesn’t have the authority to delegate it’s responsibilities anyway. John Locke explained why:
“The Legislative cannot transfer the Power of Making Laws to any other hands. For it being but a delegated Power from the People, they, who have it, cannot pass it over to others. […] The power of the Legislative being derived from the People by a positive voluntary Grant and Institution, can be no other, than what that positive Grant conveyed, which being only to make Laws, and not to make Legislators, the Legislative can have no power to transfer their Authority of making laws, and place it in other hands.”
John Locke, Second Treatise on Government
Basically what he is saying here is, since the power to make laws doesn’t really belong to Congress they cannot pass it along to someone else. The power to make laws originates in the people, so only the people can decide who they trust to exercise it on their behalf.
Look at it this way. Imagine you are going on vacation and you give your friend a key to your house so he can check on it while you’re gone. Then, after you leave he decides to give copies of your key to a few other random people to check on your house in his place. How would you feel about that?
If you’re like me, you’d be furious. You gave your friend a key so that he could check on your house for you, not so he could decide for himself who else should have access to your house.
The situation in Congress is no different. The people of this country have granted them the authority to create laws, not to create new lawmakers. The fact that Congress insists on delegating it’s authority to the executive branch should make you furious too – because your freedom will not survive if we allow it to continue.
Well said, Chad. The Executive branch has grown into a freightening monstrosity. Through executive orders, international treaties, and bloated departments under executive authority (like the Dep’t of Homeland Security), the citizens’ representation in Washington is dearly threatened. Unless our next president willingly cedes this power back to Congress, I fear it will be impossible to ever again suggest that we truly have a representative government– only the shadow of it– to keep us quiet.