Executive Orders: Where Is The Line?
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 15:02
I’m not typically one to cry “dictator” or “tyrant,” but the President’s recent remarks, in which he said “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” is quite troubling.
At first glance, it appears obvious: Why wouldn’t we want to help everybody? It seems such a callous, soulless thing to disagree with. In part (or in whole), that is due to the wording of the President’s statement. It’s easy to miss the beginning and ending of his comments because of the sugarcoated middle-beat in which help and aid are the impetus for ignoring Congress. Democrats and Republicans alike wish to help Americans, but the umbrage I take with President Obama’s statement is the method.
America is a representative democracy in which the Congress writes legislation, the Executive enacts and enforces the laws, and the Supreme Court decides whether or not the other branches are operating within the framework of the Constitution. Furthermore, Congress controls the proverbial purse strings of the nation, thus enabling them to (in theory) control spending. This system works; it gives greater say and power to the average voter and allows for consensual government.
However, when one branch tries to usurp power from the other two, this can, if gone unchecked, delegitimize the branches from which power is being taken, ultimately rendering them irrelevant. Just as our nation is one of checks and balances, it is also one of precedents. Often, a President will justify his actions because other Presidents have done the same thing historically. If we allow the President to act without the consent of Congress (and thus, the American people), then we are setting a dangerous precedent: We are siphoning our collective power away from us and towards one man, one office.
It’s easy to fall into a trap and justify President Obama’s actions: Again, he has framed what he is doing as helping people. He has done this before, by flat-out stating that his administration won’t prosecute those who break current immigration laws in order to jerry-rig his own version of the DREAM Act, which failed to pass Congress. He is cherry picking which pieces of legislation he will and won’t enforce in order to further his agenda. Creating an agenda is a must for any President, but ignoring the Congress and the written word of law is a step too far.
In order to help people, the President should seek avenues other than ignoring the Governmental branch that represent us all. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood: The Government is our employee. It derives power from us, not the other way around.