• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Boehner Keeps the Faith on Congress' Constitutional Role

    Two years ago, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA) shocked many Americans by dismissing a question about Obamacare’s constitutionality with the flippant retort: “Are you serious? Are you serious?” So much for the oath she swore to “support and defend” the Constitution. By comparison, the current Speaker of House, John Boehner (R–OH) demonstrates that he takes his oath far more seriously.

    Raising concerns about Obama’s recent decision to bypass Congress and unilaterally change student loan and mortgage policy, Speaker Boehner pledged that the House will keep “a very close eye on the administration to make sure they are following the law and following the Constitution.” Speaker Boehner should be commended for taking his constitutional responsibility seriously and especially for not falling prey to the politically convenient but noxious notion that only the Supreme Court can make constitutional decisions.

    When it comes to discussing the constitutionality of federal policy, far too many American politicians—both on the left and the right—have adopted the convenient mantra of “let the courts decide.” Such thinking reveals a grave misunderstanding of the purpose of the Constitution’s separation of powers.

    This misunderstanding proceeds from the assumption that power is to be separated by giving only one branch (the courts) the ability to interpret the Constitution as a restraint against the other two. In fact, the opposite is true: Each branch is given different means of enforcing the Constitution.

    In Federalist 51, Madison explained that the principle of the separation of powers “consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others.” The most basic example of this is the President’s ability to veto unconstitutional bills passed by Congress. In 1792, for example, George Washington vetoed a bill to reapportion representatives that would have violated constitutional requirements for congressional representation.

    It is true that the Supreme Court has an important role to play in preserving the Constitution. But relying solely on the Court to enforce the Constitution undermines the separation of powers, which is essential to the preservation of the Constitution. Any statesman truly committed to support and defend the Constitution should, therefore, reject Nancy Pelosi’s “Are you serious?” approach and instead follow Boehner’s excellent example of constitutional vigilance.

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Boehner Keeps the Faith on Congress' Constitutional Role

    1. Stirling says:

      The speaker should realize at this point that the administration is marginalizing congress in every aspect of congress responsibilities. The courts are being marginalized by the liberal activist judges being appointed each year. Until the speaker and congress starts challeging these executive decisions I can't see how his claims to uphold the constitution can be taken seriously. No executive decision should replace a responsibility of congress, otherwise we just have a monarchy-dictatorship with no accountability.

    2. Lloyd Scallan says:

      To suggest Boehner is actually "constitutional vigilance" because he is regurgitating words that he expects will save his position as speaker, is nothing more than another dishonest ploy to fool the American people into thinking his is really interested in saving our way of life. Boehner is just another establishment politician that is part of the problems that brought this nation to the sad state is has become. Until we rid Washington of this infestation that has been growing like a cancer on this nation for decades, we will never see our country restored to the greatness it once was.

    3. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, Obama has shirked his duty to protect and defend the Constitution since his inauguration. He holds it in complete and utter contempt as does his administration. As he gives only lip service to that contract, so do you only give lip service to keeping him in check.

      It was a year ago that we gave you control of 1/2 of 1/3 of the federal government or whatever you said, and you blew two huge leverage opportunities, namely the CR in the spring and the debt ceiling in the summer, to keep him in check. I for one am not bought off with these subpoenas and investigations into Fast and Furious, Solyndra, etc.

      If Bachmann doesn't get the GOP nomination, I think she would be an excellent Speaker.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.