The Obama administration sometimes acts as if there is no co-equal legislative branch of government. President Obama, on at least two contentious issues, has recently bypassed Congress in attempts to implement and enact unchecked power. Our founding fathers split power into three distinct branches with three distinct functions in the deliberate attempt to diffuse power so that it does not end up in the hands of just one and to enable a thorough check-and-balance system. However, creativity in finding work-arounds when faced with a branch or part of a branch that is controlled by the opposing party is ever-tempting.
The President did not seek congressional authorization for military intervention in Libya, but joined NATO, under the auspices of a UN resolution, in a bombing campaign which has so far cost the U.S. taxpayers around $664 million, according to a leaked memo reported by the Financial Times. On the flipside, President Bush did go to Congress for authorization to use force, which it approved in a joint resolution authorizing the war in Iraq. President Obama’s justification is that the current effort in Libya is not really putting U.S. forces into “hostilities,” which is what triggers the 1973 War Powers Act. Yet according to The Washington Post, “The Defense Department decided in April to pay an extra $225 a month in ‘imminent danger pay’ to service members who fly planes over Libya or serve on ships within 110 nautical miles of its shores.” It added that “That means the Pentagon has decided that troops in those places are “subject to the threat of physical harm or imminent danger because of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions.” There clearly is a contradiction between the action in Libya and the Administration’s official explanation.
At home, the President seems intent on implementing the DREAM Act by administrative dictat when it has never achieved a congressional majority. Thus, a federal agency advisory will in effect give legal status to illegal immigrants who have gone to college in the U.S., served in the military, or been in the country since childhood. Unfortunately for citizens of this country, their voice has not been heard or respected by the Obama administration on this issue. This initiative has been defeated by Congress twice and according to a national public opinion poll the public is opposed to this measure by 54% to 38%. Yet apparently that doesn’t matter, based on the power that Obama executes unilaterally. Critics are saying that President Obama effectively bypassed Congress by executive fiat based on a memo issued by John Morton, director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which basically says that the agency, will exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in deporting those illegal immigrants who have met the conditions stated above. This mirrors the leniency standards that are set forth in the DREAM Act, thereby accomplishing the same thing.
Perhaps this is all best summed up by what Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist, argued while on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, “This is outright lawlessness on the part of the administration. Whatever the politics of this, we do have a Constitution. And under it, the Legislature, the Congress enacts the laws and the executive executes them. It doesn’t make them up…it may not be an explicit executive order, it’s an implicit one. It’s exactly as Obama is doing with the EPA. Cap and trade is rejected so it’s going to regulate carbon emissions again through executive action.”