Accountability

Committee Spotlight: Chairman Goodlatte, House Judiciary Committee

Policy • December 5, 2013

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.  In this week’s Committee Spotlight, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) provides a recap of the hearing and key clips of witness testimony.

Click Here to Watch the Full Video

Please also see below the Read Out from the Hearing:

Judiciary Committee Hearing on the President’s Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws

On Tuesday, December 3, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.”  The hearing examined a pattern we’ve witnessed throughout President Obama’s tenure: when the President disagrees with laws, he circumvents them.  Now with Obamacare, President Obama is rewriting his own law, even though the law doesn’t provide him the authority to do so.

The Constitution is clear: it is Congress’s duty to write our laws and, once they are enacted, it is the President’s responsibility to enforce them.  Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution declares that the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  However, President Obama has failed on several occasions to enforce Acts of Congress that he disagrees with for policy reasons. The President has also stretched his regulatory authority to enact policies refused by Congress.

Most notably, the President has—without statutory authorization—waived, suspended, and amended several major provisions of his health care law.  These unlawful modifications to Obamacare include: delaying for one year Obamacare’s employer mandate; instructing States that they are free to ignore the law’s clear language regarding which existing health care plans may be grandfathered; and promulgating an IRS rule that allows for the distribution of billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies that Congress never authorized.

The House has acted to validate retroactively some of the President’s illegal Obamacare modifications.  However, rather than mbrace these legislative fixes, the President’s response has been to threaten to veto the House passed measures.

Witnesses at the hearing had very strong reactions to the unilateral actions the President has taken.  They were extremely concerned with the vast expansion in executive power the Obama Administration is pushing and the implications it poses to the separation of powers and individual liberty.  Some of the key statements from witnesses at the hearing include:

  • Professor Jonathan Turley (who testified that he voted for President Obama): “The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the President is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in a single branch.”
  • Michael Cannon, Cato Institute: “If the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws, then they will conclude that neither are they.  That is a very dangerous sort of thing for the President to do, to wantonly ignore the laws and to try to impose obligations on people that the legislature did not approve.”
  • Professor Jonathan Turley:  “I really have great trepidation over where we are heading because we’re creating a new system. . . .  Within that system we have the rise of an uber presidency.  There could be no greater danger for individual liberty and I really think the Framers would be horrified by that shift.”
  • Professor Nicholas Rosenkranz: “The President has a personal obligation to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed. . . .’  The President cannot suspend laws altogether.  He cannot favor unenacted bills over duly enacted laws.  And he cannot discriminate on the basis of politics in his execution of the laws.  The President has crossed all three of these lines.”

Finally, the point is not whether Americans agree with President Obama’s individual policy decisions.  It is that the President may not – consistent with the command that he faithfully execute the laws – unilaterally amend, waive, or suspend the law.  Oversight of the Executive Branch is not a partisan issue.  Instead, Republicans and Democrats should come together, regardless of the President’s party, to ensure that executive power is kept in check.

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