What often gets lost in the ideological war over public policy is a separate and distinct debate over the balance of power in government. Whatever ones views on the efficacy of any given policy, the importance of the political process that involves the scrutiny of multiple branches of government is important.
Agree or disagree with President Obama’s policies, there is no question that his administration has run roughshod over Congress and the Constitution. Bryan Preston has a summary of this egregiousness:
President Obama has effectively cast the Congress aside as he pursues his agenda tofundamentally transform America. He has rewritten much of his Affordable Care Act, a law passed despite the fact that it has never enjoyed majority support, to move its mandate deadlines around the inconvenience of elections, and to keep moving the goal posts on what constitutes the program’s success. The law as written and signed does not provide the power for these broad changes. At the same time, he is using the regulatory state — chiefly the Environmental Protection Agency — to impose by executive action a far-left economic agenda he could not get through Congress even when Democrats controlled both houses. He has headed off challenges to the EPA’s actions by packing the Washington DC Circuit Court, which is where federal regulations are most often challenged in court, by packing it with his allies. And at the same time, the Obama NSA has ramped up its surveillance of American citizens to unprecedented new levels, while lying directly to Congress about its actions, during a time that President Obama himself claims that the chief terrorist threat, al Qaeda, is “on the run.” If al Qaeda is really on the run, then what’s the purpose of the government’s increase in surveillance?
His IRS became a political weapon during his re-election effort, IRS officials involved lied about it, and despite claiming to be outraged by it he has held no one accountable — because by repeatedly declaring his opponents “terrorists” and the like, he and his administration set the scheme in motion. Obama also joked about unleashing the IRS to audit his opponents in 2009, and lo and behold, the audits have come.
With Congress bypassed and cornered nearly to checkmate, there aren’t many avenues left to challenge the administration. One avenue is the courts, so that is where a pair of Republican senators are taking their cases.
Two Republican Senators – Rand Paul and Rob Portman – are taking to the courts to push back.
Senator Portman has filed a lawsuit over Obamacare exemptions. “By arranging for me and other members of Congress and their staffs to receive benefits intentionally ruled out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the administration has exceeded its legal authority,” he writes in the Wall Street Journal today. “The president and his congressional supporters have also broken their promise to the American people that ObamaCare was going to be so good that they would participate in it just like everyone else. In truth, many members of Congress feel entitled to an exemption from the harsh realities of the law they helped jam down Americans’ throats in 2010. Unlike millions of their countrymen who have lost coverage and must now purchase insurance through an exchange, members and their staffs will receive an employer contribution to help pay for their new plans.”
Paul said the goal of the lawsuit is to force the Obama administration to follow the constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment. “We want them to protect the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said. “We want them to protect the right to privacy. We want them to understand that we’re not willing to trade our liberty for security. We think we can have security and we can defend against terrorism but that doesn’t mean every individual American has to give up their privacy. We think we can have both. But we are very upset that this president doesn’t seem to be too concerned with our right to privacy.”
It’s about time Republicans took this tact. Governnace isn’t just about philosophy, it’s also about process. Our founders intended a federal government that had restrained powers, and could only excercise that power under conditions of broad consensus of representatives over multiple branches of government.
These sort of lawsuits seek to restore that process, and in a perfect world these efforts would have broad and bi-partisan support.