Here is House Speaker John Boehner, discussing the prospects for enacting immigration reform:
“He’s talking about his phone and his pen and he’s feeding more distrust about whether he’s committed to the rule of law . . . . The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the [immigration] reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be . . . . Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce the law. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
There you have it. Those are plain, seemingly innocuous words, suggestive of a political dispute rather than a looming cataclysm, not received with any apparent alarm in the media. But consider: the most powerful Republican politician in America has announced that we are no longer functioning as a democratic republic under the U.S. Constitution. The House of Representatives is declining to consider legislation because it believes its constitutional authority to legislate has been rendered meaningless by the refusal of the President to obey the provisions of Clause 5 of Article 2, Section 3, of the Constitution, which declares that the President must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
The Speaker is not talking about “signing statements” – in which a President declares an intention not to enforce what he considers to be unconstitutional portions of a law. Nor is the Speaker talking about the interpretation of a law. No, he is talking about straightforward, flat-out subversion by the President of the fundamental mechanism of the U.S. government.
The most blatant recent examples of the kind of behavior to which the Speaker referred, are the multiple “waivers” by the President of various provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”). None of these waivers was accompanied by a signing statement, as none was based upon a claim that the waived provisions were unconstitutional. No, the White House’s justification has been that the waivers were not really waivers, that they were merely devices to fix technical problems, or devices necessary to implement the overall plan and purpose of the ACA.
It is conceivable that the White House’s claim could eventually find some level of support in our court system. But that is not the point. The point is, our legislature is not buying it. The House has effectively declared itself out of business as a result of perceived misconduct by the President, has declared that the constitutional separation of powers no longer exists. Whether they are legally right or wrong is not the point; the point is, our government – as we knew it – has ceased to function. Our legislature is no longer willing to legislate. And that is a very big deal.