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Morning Bell: Imperial Presidency
Posted By Matthew Spalding, Ph.D. On June 22, 2012 @ 9:06 am In First Principles | Comments Disabled
The United States was born when rebellious colonists declared their independence from an imperial ruler who had vastly overstepped his bounds. “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” they wrote in their Declaration of Independence .
Today’s presidency lacks the regal air of George III. But imperialism is back, in a big way.
Last week, the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum  instructing U.S. immigration officials to use their “prosecutorial discretion” to create a policy scheme contrary to existing law, designed to implement legislation that Congress hasn’t passed.
The President himself has admitted he doesn’t have the authority to do this. “The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works,” he told Hispanic activists last year . “That’s not how our democracy functions.”
We can now see before us a persistent pattern of disregard for the powers of the legislative branch in favor of administrative decision-making without—and often in spite of—congressional action. This violates the spirit—and potentially the letter—of the Constitution’s separation of the legislative and executive powers of Congress and the President.
Likewise, the Administration has often simply refused to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress:
On Tuesday, the President invoked executive privilege to avoid handing over some 1,300 documents in an ongoing Congressional  investigation. The Supreme Court has held that executive privilege cannot be invoked to shield wrongdoing. Is that what’s happening in this case? “Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more,” Heritage legal scholar Todd Gaziano writes .
Earlier this year the President crossed the threshold of constitutionality when he gave “recess appointments” to four officials who were subject to Senate confirmation, even though the Senate wasn’t in recess. Gaziano wrote at the time  that such appointments “would render the Senate’s advice and consent role to normal appointments almost meaningless. It is a grave constitutional wrong.”
There is no telling where such disregard may go next, but the trend is clear, and it leads further and further away from the constitutional rule of law.
The President has unique and powerful responsibilities in our constitutional system as chief executive officer, head of state, and commander in chief. Those powers do not include the authority to make laws or to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore. The President – like judges or Members of Congress – takes an oath to uphold the Constitution in carrying out the responsibilities of his office.
Indeed, the President takes a unique oath, pledging he “shall faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” We don’t need a new Declaration of Independence, but we do need a President who will defend and vigorously exert his or her legitimate powers, recognizing that those powers are not arbitrary or unlimited.
Dr. Matthew Spalding is the Vice President for American Studies and Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation. He is also the author of We Still Hold These Truths .
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/22/morning-bell-imperial-presidency/
URLs in this post:
 Declaration of Independence: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
 memorandum: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/s1-exercising-prosecutorial-discretion-individuals-who-came-to-us-as-children.pdf
 activists last year: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-07-25/politics/obama.la.raza_1_immigration-reform-immigration-system-janet-murguia?_s=PM:POLITICS
 ongoing Congressional: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/21/morning-bell-president-obamas-fast-and-furious-scandal-grows/
 Todd Gaziano writes: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/20/fast-and-furious-executive-privilege-is-illegitimate-to-shield-wrongdoing/
 wrote at the time: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/01/04/a-tyrannical-abuse-of-power-obama-attempts-to-appoint-cordray-to-cfpb/
 We Still Hold These Truths: http://westillholdthesetruths.org/
 Moody’s downgraded 15 of the world’s largest banks: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-financial-moodys-downgrades-idUSBRE85K1QL20120622
 accused the White House of “lying” or “hiding something”: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0612/77727.html
 Press Secretary Jay Carney could not recall the name of the slain border agent, Brian Terry: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/06/21/whs_carney_forgets_name_of_slain_border_patrol_agent.html
 White House may have steered lobbying contracts: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304765304577480871706139792.html
 Chat with us here about the largest tax hike in history that strikes in January: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/21/online-chat-on-taxmageddon/
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