November 1, 1999
History Repeats Itself, So Let's Repeat History
A Real Solution to Executive Order Abuses
This week I testified at a subcommittee hearing regarding my legislation, HR 2655, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act. One of the chief complaints of the American colonists against King George was that he usurped powers that were not rightfully his, and then used those powers to the disadvantage of the people. As a limit on governmental power, Constitutional framers vested Federal powers in three coequal branches of government, each with unique and limited powers and each with a coequal duty to uphold and sustain the Constitution of the United States.
There's an old saying that history often repeats itself, and so it has done concerning recent abuses of power by the executive branch. I believe this is a most serious matter threatening the very structural foundation of freedom established by this nation's founders. James Madison, quoting Montesquieu in the Federalist Papers No. 47, stated, "There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates."
In an effort to resurrect the ingenuity of our founders, I have introduced HR 2655. This act restores the constitutional separation of powers by returning law-making power to Congress ALONE. First, it terminates all existing states of national emergency and removes the executive branch power to declare national emergencies, restoring that power to Congress. It also restricts executive orders by denying to them force of law except as provided for by Congress. Executive orders issued must cite the specific Constitutional provision or Statutory authority… if not, the effect of law is denied. Finally, it repeals the 1973 War Powers Resolution which, despite the constitutional prohibition, granted broad war-making authority to the Office of President.
It is, of course, a mistake to place all blame with any single president or the presidency itself for abuse of power. After all, presidents have had many willing accomplices in Congress. A great number of congressmen and senators quietly appreciate the assumed presidential authority to create and enact legislation because it allows them to see their goals accomplished without having to assume political responsibility. Still, this administration seems bent on using this vehicle to usurp Congressional authority.
Most recently, the November 1st, 1999, issue of U.S. News & World Report states that "Clinton plans a series of executive orders and changes to federal rules that he can sign into law without first getting the ok from GOP naysayers. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was quoted as saying, "There's a pretty wide sweep of things we're looking to do, and we're going to be very aggressive pursuing it."
And, while there is a role for executive orders so that the president may faithfully execute laws passed by Congress, execute those powers specifically granted in Article II and, in so doing, direct executive branch employees, for far too many years, the illegitimate uses have overshadowed the legitimate. Presidents have issued executive orders that have mistakenly taken on the semblance of law. Kings may have the right to decree law, but Rule of Law is king in this country. By clearly defining the lines of power, my bill seeks to further secure the blessings of liberty upon our nation.