Sunday, February 17

Obama ignores the law--repeatedly


The Obama administration has repeatedly, brazenly ignored the law.

After the Republicans won a majority in the House Obama realized he would have trouble getting his legislative goals passed.  Accordingly, he seems to have decided to enact his ideas by Executive Order, regardless of whether they were contrary to the law.

One example: his recess appointments in January 2012 of three members of the National Labor Relations Board and the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled unanimously that the NLRB recess appointments were unconstitutional.  The decision, written by Judge David Sentelle, noted that the Constitution speaks of "the recess," not "a recess," and reasoned that it could only be referring to the recess between annual sessions of Congress.

When Harry Reid became Senate majority leader in 2007 he hit on a way to block George Bush from making any recess appointments:  during long recesses of congress Reid began holding pro-forma meetings of the senate every three days, and claimed that the senate was not actually in recess. 

Bush, who like virtually all presidents had made recess appointments before, stopped doing so.  He took the view that since the Constitution says each branch of Congress makes its own rules, if the leader of the senate said the senate was in session, he would abide by that determination.

By contrast, Obama implicitly decided that he would decide whether the Senate was in session.

As Sentelle pointed out, Obama's view would entitle the president to make a recess appointment any time the Senate broke for lunch. "This cannot be the law," Sentelle wrote.

Under Obama's interpretation the Senate's constitutional duty to "advise and consent" to presidential appointments would effectively vanish.

The Framers contemplated that the Congress would take long recesses (as for many years it did) and that it could take months for senators to return to Washington to act on appointments.  It's plausible that the Framers would have considered recess appointments unnecessary in an era of jet travel. It's not plausible that they would have approved of getting rid of the Senate's power to vote on appointments altogether.

Meanwhile, decisions of the NLRB and the CFPB are in legal limbo pending a Supreme Court decision on this case. Hundreds of thousands of people and are affected and millions of dollars are at stake. There is a price for not observing the rule of law.

There are other examples. For several years, the Obama administration has refused to obey a law requiring the president's budget to be submitted on a certain date. As Budget Director, Treasury nominee Jack Lew refused to obey the law requiring him to issue a report in response to the trustees' report on Medicare.

During the 2012 campaign the Pentagon told defense contractors not to inform employees that they may be laid off if the sequester took effect as required by the WARN Act.  They were even told that the government would pay any fines that might be levied on them for not complying with the act's provisions. What law authorizes the government to do that?  The answer, of course, is...nothing.  For the government to pay the fines would be illegal.  Yet the government promised to do just that, and the MSM didn't bat an eye.

Similarly, Health and Human Services has stated that if states refuse to create "health care exchanges" under Obamacare, the federal government can fund and run said health insurance exchanges for the states. But nowhere does the Democrats' hastily-crafted Obamacare legislation contemplate the government doing that.

In spring 2009 we saw the first example of Obama's disdain for the law:  In arranging the Chrysler bankruptcy, administration officials brushed aside the rights of secured creditors in order to pay off the (unsecured) unionized auto workers, in violation of standard bankruptcy law.

In short, Obama picks and chooses the laws he wishes to obey.

In case you're not clear on the concept, the Constitution doesn't give any president--not even Chicago Jesus--the authority to do that.  It is, in fact, an impeachable offense.

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