Rod St. Aubyn: Where are the Checks and Balances?


The framers of our Constitution were brilliant men. They constructed a government with built-in “checks and balances” to ensure that no one branch of government would unnecessarily take control of our government. Through the many years, only a few changes to our constitution have been necessary. However as our country and its government has evolved we are now faced with a growing crisis. Where are the “checks and balances” when we have a President that has exceeded his authority, but Congress is controlled by two different parties?

Political experts argue that the “checks and balances” reside with Congress having the authority to impeach the president and by having control of the purse strings. As far as the purse strings, the public’s reaction to a government shutdown basically rules out that option. Now today, with the Democrats controlling the Senate and the public’s disdain for impeachment, what is the answer? The courts have ruled numerous times that the Obama administration has exceeded its authority in exercising his executive orders. Even left-leaning law professor, Jonathon Turley has expressed his concern over the President’s abuse of power. He was a guest on a TV show this summer talking about the Supreme Court ruling against the President on his recess appointments this summer.

Turley said they were an example of the “serial violation” of the separation of powers by Obama. He argued that the Supreme Court made “the right decision” by striking down the appointments and said that he was “astonished that the Obama administration litigated this case.”

Turley added that the ruling means that the president again violated the separation of powers, and this is becoming something of a serial violation for the president,” and was a “shot across the bow” in many areas of presidential power.

There is now speculation that the President is soon contemplating taking executive actions to reform immigration.

Recently, the GAO issued a statement that the President violated the law when he made the prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Previous to this GAO report, the US House filed a lawsuit against the President saying he has exceeded his authority.

Numerous legal experts say that the chances for success of this lawsuit are very low. Many times they say that Congress does not have “standing” to file a suit. I am not an attorney, but if one branch of government (the President) exceeds his/her authority, it seems that there needs to be some mechanism short of impeachment to stop this abuse.

We all know that the Democrat controlled Senate would never vote to convict the President of impeachment. In fact, the Democrats have used the threat of impeachment as a fund-raising tool and a campaign issue for the November elections.

I am not a constitutional scholar, but I wish that Congress would have the authority to challenge a President’s actions in a legal action in an expedited court hearing. If this were possible, and if a president were found by a court of law to have violated the law numerous times with serious issues, then perhaps the Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) and the public would support taking further action such as impeachment if it were appropriate.

Advocates on the left argue that many other Presidents, especially Republican presidents, issued far more Executive Orders that President Obama. This may be true, but that fact does not make it right. Executive Orders are necessary sometime. But when these executive actions are found to be a violation of the law, then that is another matter. This issue should be a concern for all political parties. Even though I applaud the framers of our constitution, I think our country has now evolved into a situation where another remedy short of impeachment must be afforded to Congress.