When the president delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress, do not expect him, as a former constitutional law professor, to defend the indefensible. It is clear that he deliberately ignores the Constitution and the separation of powers because he understands them to be an impediment to his ideological mission to remake our nation.
The OLC issued an opinion that dismissed pro forma sessions as merely parliamentary ploys, not real sessions. This could not be more disingenuous, particularly in light of the administration’s reliance on a pro forma session to pass a two month extension of the payroll tax cut in December.
Worse, the OLC opinion argued that the executive branch should essentially have the authority to determine when the Senate is unavailable to perform its constitutional obligations. This is an extraordinary claim. Nowhere in the Constitution is the executive vested with this power. Instead, each chamber explicitly holds the power to determine its own rules and proceedings.
The Founding Fathers, motivated to form a new nation in large part by their negative experiences with executive overreach, would be dismayed by the utter disregard this President has shown for the Constitution and separation of powers.
It would be bad enough if this were an isolated incident. It is not. Routinely, this administration uses the regulatory apparatus to make an end run around Congress and the separation of powers. Unable to force economically destructive cap-and-trade legislation through Congress in 2009, the president empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to begin promulgating greenhouse gas rules. The bureaucracy drives the president’s ideological agenda forward, ignoring Congress and completely bypassing the checks and balances built into our Constitution.
Now we have a National Labor Relations Board actually attempting to dictate to private employers where they can do business, as in the Boeing case. This assault on the Constitution and basic commonsense would be beyond belief if this administration had not already passed an individual mandate as the centerpiece of Obamacare. I believe this gross exercise in distortion of the Commerce Clause to justify the forced purchase of health insurance would appall the framers of the Constitution.
During the 2008 campaign, a 200l interview surfaced that lends support to the conclusion that the president views the Constitution as an impediment. In the interview, President Obama, then a constitutional lecturer at the University of Chicago, complained to Chicago Public Radio of the “constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution” on the ability to affect “redistributive change.”
I often discuss with my constituents the fact that we are engaged in a battle for the heart and soul of our nation. In his State of the Union address the president will put a cheerful face on policies that take us the way of Europe, where nations teeter on the brink of insolvency and chaos, statist policies have crippled long-term economic growth and societies of dependents merely exist, having already traded their hopes and dreams for the fleeting illusion of security.
I count myself among the many who intend to pass down a future where our children can pursue their hopes and dreams. We want to limit the size and scope of the federal government to the ‘constraints’ of the Constitution, so free markets, personal responsibility, self reliance and individual liberty will endure. After all, the more you have of the former, the less you have of the latter.
President Obama is aggressively expanding executive power and undermining the Constitution to achieve ideological goals that cannot be reached within its constraints. In the battle for the heart and soul of our nation, President Obama clearly believes the ends justify the means.
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) is a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee.