Obama’s end-run around the constitution

Eyeglasses with newspaper and coffee cup

On Monday, President Obama came right out and said it: he doesn’t care if the legislative body elected to represent the American people doesn’t want to act on immigration reform; he’ll do it anyway.

The announcement [1]  is startling on its face. The President of the United States doesn’t have the authority to enact legislative policy. Apparently, that doesn’t matter to President Obama, who ironically used to be a constitutional law professor.

“If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” said the president in making his announcement. “The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, is bad for our economy, is bad for our future. America cannot wait forever for them to act.”

Note to President Obama: it’s not Congress’ “job” to simply enact his agenda.

Still, the larger principle at stake here is executive overreach. President Obama once criticized his predecessor for supposedly expanding his use of executive authority. Yet Obama has time and time again, acted on his own without consent from the 535 members of Congress who are, according to the Constitution, supposed to debate in create law. Even CNN’s legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, reacted to [2] Obama’s announcement by saying, “Well, that’s not necessarily the way the Constitution is set up. He can only act when Article 2 of the Constitution says the president has the authority.”

“But once you start new initiatives,” Toobin added, “it gets a little more dicey legally.”

While we believe no immigration debate should start without resolving how to secure our borders, we’re also concerned about the precedent this sets. Obama isn’t the first president to not like having to deal with Congress, and he certainly won’t be the last. But he’s constrained by the same Constitution he used to teach his students at Harvard. It’s time he acts like it.