The filing of a lawsuit against the president of the United States by the House of Representatives is an historic event which will clarify the legislative process defined by our Constitution. Those who denounce it as political posturing are afraid of losing it.
Those who see it as one party against the other don’t understand it.
Those who care about rule of law will embrace it.
In short, the suit asks the judicial branch to settle a dispute between the executive branch and the legislative branch, having to do with which is authorized by the Constitution to make and change law.
As you learned in school, the Constitution says that law is written in this country by a process arising in the legislative branch – the House and Senate. Each must introduce and pass a bill, the two bills must be reconciled and the reconciliation must be approved by both houses of Congress, and then the bill must go to the president. If he signs it, it becomes law.
That law is then considered inviolate, and it is the policy and procedure of the nation until such time as it is superseded by subsequent legislation.
That’s how it has always been.
Of late, however, in the ongoing back and forth between the branches, the executive branch has repeatedly and unilaterally made changes to law. By so doing, it has implicitly asserted that it has the authority to do so.
The basis for such authority is not readily apparent in the Constitution.
Which brings up the lawsuit.
Under the concept of judicial review arising from our Constitution, a dispute between the branches about powers and constitutional procedures should be decided by the judicial branch. It isn’t enough for the president to say he has the authority and the Congress to say he doesn’t, there must be a resolution.
That resolution is the federal courts.
Not as a matter political contention, but of constitutional clarification.
And it is foolish and naïve for politicians to see this in partisan terms.
Yes, it is Democrat President Barack Obama who is being sued, and who seems to have overstepped constitutional bounds. Yes, it is Republicans in the House of Representatives who are hauling the matter into federal court.
But this is about process, not party, and what the Democrat does today, which so angers the Republican, a Republican could do tomorrow, at great upset to the Democrat.
This isn’t about what team you’re on, it’s about who gets to make the law.
It’s about the presidential assertion that there is an executive authority to change law post-legislatively. The Congress can write law when legislation is proposed and reconciled. This new power, however, seems to claim for the president the right to change that law – thereby writing it anew – unilaterally and without review or approval of the Congress. It gives the president the power to dictate in lieu of the constitutional process to legislate.
That is actually huge.
And it must be challenged.
Because it must be either ratified or repudiated. There is currently no basis in law for this presidential power. It is pure fiat. Someone must determine whether it is legal or not, and that someone is the federal judiciary – ultimately possibly the Supreme Court.
All should welcome this suit.
Those who support the president in the assertion of these powers should expect victory and vindication. If the president is doing the right thing, the Supreme Court will back him up – right?
Those who oppose the president in the assertion of these powers should also expect success in the courts.
But both sides should expect the only thing that counts – a ruling that will settle the matter and honor the Constitution.
This is not disrespectful to Barack Obama or an assault on the Democratic Party. It is, rather, respectful of the Founding Fathers and a defense of the American Republic. No one can argue with that.
And no one can argue against the wisdom of a return to rule of law – that ancient friend of free men which asserts that law is supreme and may not be disregarded or enacted at the whim of one man. The law arises from the actions of the branch of government closest and most accountable to the people.
The Founders feared an imperial presidency, and crafted a Constitution to safeguard against it. The president’s powers are great but limited, and no single president can throw off those limits.
No matter who he is or what party he represents.
Both parties should be united in that belief.
And in advancing a lawsuit which asks the federal judiciary to remind us how law is made in this country, and what the proper balance is between the executive and legislative branches.