The Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley testified before the House Judiciary Committee this week, addressing the nonenforcement of the laws. In Turley’s words: “We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government. There has been a massive gravitational shift of authority to the Executive Branch that threatens the stability and functionality of our tripartite system.” This testimony (available here) addressed potential corrective measures. His testimony of December 3, 2013 (available here) lays out the core argument (all subsequent quotes are from the December transcript).  Nonenforcement, Turley argues, “effectively reduce[s] the legislative process to a series of options for presidential selection ranging from negation to full enforcement.”  The broader ramifications:

The current claims of executive power will outlast this president and members must consider the implications of the precedent that they are now creating through inaction and silence…. Despite the fact that I once voted for President Obama, personal admiration is no substitute for the constitutional principles at stake in this controversy. When a president claims the inherent power of both legislation and enforcement, he becomes a virtual government unto himself. He is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he becomes the very danger that the Constitution was designed to avoid.

As Turley concludes (after quoting from Madison’s Federalist 51): “For decades…Congress has allowed its core authority to drain into a fourth branch of federal agencies with increasing insularity and independence. It has left Congress intact but inconsequential in some disputes. If this trend continues unabated, Congress will be left like some Maginot Line on the constitutional landscape – a sad relic of a once tripartite system of equal branches.”

Both of these transcripts are worth reading, particularly if one is concerned about the expansion of presidential powers that we have witnessed in the past few administrations.

2 thoughts on “The Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws

  1. Much of the Progressive left has become antiparliamentarian like Stalin or Franco. Of course, it’s impolitic to say so and therefore I urge everyone to not use my blog comments in the course of trying to persuade your neighbor or co-worker. Still, if you listen to what they say it’s very clear that they are capital P progressives of the old school: the world of science and technology is to complicated to be left to every yokel and rube across the fruited plane. You can either have the NRC regulating nuclear power plants or you can let the drunken subhuman Homer Simpson and the venal and reckless Monty Burns conspire to make our youths glow green.

    But we pursue truth so, onward. Let’s look at the de facto policymaking process. An enormous rulemaking authority has become the commonplace powers of all the administrative agencies. Republicans raise an inchoate cri de coeur against all of these alphabet soup bureaucracies– EPA, IRS, HUD, etc. but the issues at hand are so complex (and the time of the legislative overseers so overtaxed) that there can be no effective oversight.

    How can the bureaucracies be brought to heel? And who’s to say the underinformed elected officials and the woefully underinformed citizens won’t do an even worse job?

  2. Sorry about the “Stalin” and “Franco” bit. It was needlessly inflammatory. Nevertheless, the point stands: many American Progressives brook no dissent and it’s patently illiberal.

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