Don’t tell Obama that Congress is a co-equal branch; show him

AP Photo

The most central principle at stake in President Obama’s executive order on immigration is much bigger than border security, amnesty, or precedents for executive orders. It’s where the executive’s power ends and the legislature’s begins.

By declaring he will not only defer prosecution of up to 5 million illegal immigrants but will grant them benefits such as work permits too, Obama is not acting on executive authority alone. He is not merely deciding who will and won’t be prosecuted for the crime of illegal immigration, but also setting policy about what the government will give those people as a result of their non-prosecution. This is akin to not only deciding not to prosecute someone for shoplifting chewing gum, but then giving them a candy bar from the store, too.

But the biggest dilemma is the one this presents to a future president, particularly a Republican one. If a Republican is elected president in 2016 and proceeds to use Obama’s precedent on immigration to order policy changes on other issues — as I outlined earlier — he or she would be equally complicit in the gradual erosion of our carefully balanced system of government. But declining to follow that precedent in the name of restoring the constitutional order is also dangerous: Now that we have seen Democrats are willing to break new legal ground in this respect, as they previously did by eliminating the filibuster for certain presidential nominations, we have no reason to believe future Democrats won’t do the same. The GOP acting alone to restore order potentially amounts to unilateral disarmament. Choosing between that or a destructive one-upmanship is a depressing prospect.

In fact, they don’t have to choose between those options. There is a third option: Make this presidential approach fail. And Congress can do that by responding to Obama’s extreme use of prosecutorial discretion with an equally aggressive use of the power of the purse.

Here’s what Congress would need to do:

1. Break up appropriations into much smaller chunks. This is the way spending bills are supposed to be handled anyway, but the gridlock of the past few years has resulted in the House and Senate passing “omnibus” continuing resolutions that spending for the entire government at once. This is an effective abdication of the power of the purse; it removes the ability of Congress to set priorities; and it sets up high-stakes showdowns when disagreements arise, leading in some cases to government shutdowns the public has grown weary of. It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, Congress should return to the traditional practice of sending the president a series of smaller appropriations bills. I’d go even smaller than in the past: one bill every week or two, until everything is covered.

2. Prioritize the bills in a way that reflects the principles of a limited federal government. Start with defense, then the judiciary, and so forth. Early on, pass a bill funding Social Security and Medicare, to ensure that Obama can’t claim retirees are in peril, as well as one covering debt-service payments so that the threat of default is taken off the table. Proceed on down the line until two areas of spending (see below) are left.

3. Maintain current levels of spending in these bills. This might rub some conservatives the wrong way, but Congress can only fight one battle this big at a time. (This doesn’t mean other, non-appropriations bills regarding other issues can’t be passed along the way.) In any case, holding spending steady, with perhaps a few relatively small and non-controversial exceptions, while revenues rise due to a growing economy will end up shrinking the deficit. The point is not to give Obama an argument for vetoing appropriations bills because Congress is trying to shrink the government; this is part of a strategy which has to be airtight if it’s to succeed. The fact that budget bills can be passed by the reconciliation process means they don’t require 60 votes — including some Democrats — to move forward.

4. After funding everything else, save two items for the end. First, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Break down that department’s spending into even smaller chunks, ensuring that enforcement activities are funded but that what Obama wants to do to fulfill his executive order is not.

Second, White House operations. This is where Congress can make Obama feel its power of the purse most acutely. Defund the chef. Defund the cleaning staff. Heck, defund the utilities; pay the president his salary and tell him the vast, vast majority of Americans manage to keep the lights on and food on the table with a lot less than $400,000 a year.

Defund Air Force One. The Constitution says nothing about a presidential obligation to make trips outside Washington, D.C. If Obama feels the need to make a trip, he can request the funds for that specific trip from Congress. If the trip is overtly political — say, a DNC fund raiser — Congress can decline and he can pay for the trip with campaign funds. If the trip is justifiable, Congress should appropriate only as much as is actually required for the president to conduct the relevant business in a secure manner.

In short, defund all the trappings of power that have helped build the presidency into the larger-than-the-Constitution entity it has become. And keep it up as long as he insists on trying to carry out this executive order.

If it doesn’t work in the first year, then in the second year proceed to defund other priorities of his, including Obamacare. Pursue this strategy aggressively enough, and the president won’t be able to maintain his gambit.

The presidency, contrary to popular belief among liberals when a Democrat is in office, is not superior to the Congress. If anything, the Founders’ placement of the legislative branch in Article I of the Constitution suggests it is Congress that is first among equals, not the president. The reason for that arrangement very clearly was to avoid situations like the one in which we find ourselves today.

I don’t know if GOP leaders have the fortitude to launch such a response, much less see it through. It’s much easier to file a lawsuit that won’t work, refuse to work on other issues, and talk, talk, talk about how they collectively are the president’s equal.

Don’t tell Obama that Congress is co-equal. Show him.

Reader Comments 0

114 comments
bu2
bu2

Good ideas Kyle.


Passing normal department spending bills, is of course, simple common sense.

RantNRave
RantNRave

BOEHNER 


PASS A BILL


PASS A BILL


PASS A BILL

Salt-n-Light
Salt-n-Light

Would children be so eager to come here illegally if they knew about Michelle's school lunches? Just askin'

Salt-n-Light
Salt-n-Light

What exactly is Obama's official explanation for doing nothing on immigration when the Democrats had the House and Senate? Send me a bill indeed! LOL

332-206
332-206

Something to do with health care...

notagain
notagain

@Salt-n-Light  Not his but mine,he was so busy trying to stop a depression,continue a war,and in gen.keep the country going.He could not correct 8 years of failure in his first two.It's taken him 6yrs.and with a fight all the way....

Salt-n-Light
Salt-n-Light

Wonder how Democrats would react if a Republican president failed to enforce the Clean Air Act? Hypocrites they are for supporting him in this endeavor.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Seems to me the Congress should work with the President instead of doing nothing.  Any President, all congresses. 


Its legal and right and nothing like chewing gum.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

"...we have no reason to believe future Democrats won’t do the same."

Agreed. And be concerned about future Republicans as well.

Imagine a president with the twisted psyche of a Richard M. Nixon or the alcohol numbed mind of a George W.M.D. Bush with the power to ignore the Constitution and issue rule of law executive proclamations 

Starik
Starik

The real battle will be between moderate Republicans and the right wing nut fringe, tea partiers.  Do the Republicans want to govern rationally with a shot at electing Presidents again or continue to be controlled by a bunch of old white people driving old cars with weird bumper stickers plastered all over them. 

bu2
bu2

@Starik 

The only old white people I see with weird bumper stickers are liberal Democrats.  Republicans aren't going to let them control their party.

332-206
332-206

Fight, fight, fight!!!

Gooooo, Team!!!

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

In 2007, an immigration deal backed by both Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy was making its way through the Senate. Publicly, then-Sen. Obama was all for it. Backstage, however, he supported labor-backed poison-pill amendments designed to sink it. In a story at the time on what was going on, Politico described it this way: “The biggest threats to an immigration bill spearheaded by Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy have come from within: Twice this week, senators from his own Democratic Party were poised to back amendments that could have killed the fragile compromise.


http://nypost.com/2014/11/20/sabotaging-reform-obamas-record-on-immigration/


I'm guessing he must have evolved, right? 

notagain
notagain

Never did I expect this type article from Kyle.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@notagain 

Uh, and just what type of article did you wish Kyle to write?  did this pass or not pass your muster?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

We are in a cold war politically in this country between the left (socialists, communists, NWO types) and the "right", which through my young adult life was actually the center politically and spanned BOTH major parties. This is a fight for the survival of our way of life which is under great pressure domestically and internationally. Either the GOP is going to represent the majority of people in this country, to the right politically, or they are going to lose elections. The people spoke earlier this month. We shall see who was listening.

RantNRave
RantNRave

CONS ARE ONLY ARGUING THE PROCESS........


PASS A BILL !!! 

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

@Kyle_Wingfield Fight fire with fire.  The GOP has been delinquent in its responsibilities for 6 years now.  The President has been left with no choice.  I don't like that he has to do it, but I'm glad he's taking the fight to the Republicans.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@Tiberius-Constitutionus @Kyle_Wingfield 

"...The GOP has been delinquent in its responsibilities for 6 years now."

Aside from the insidious remark, what could they have accomplished when ALL THREE branches of Government were in the hands of the Demokrats from 2008-2010?  Why didn't the Dems take that issue on along with the healthscare law they jammed through Congress?

And, I would add:  Just what "responsibilities" did the Republicans shirk their responsibilities in and of?  Kinda hard to pass ANY legislation when both the Senate has a Harry Reid and then there's You-Know-Who that might veto it?

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@Kyle_Wingfield 

Kyle:

Though it was repeated numerous times, the videos of Obama stating his unwillingness to "Go awry of the Constitution" and "Not having the power to unilaterally make law," etc. should have been enough but, alas, he finds a way to wiggle out of any situation.

I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans (and liberals, that also means Republicans!) are not particularly happy with the current situation; however, they are not of the sort to overly penalize or hurt those who have broken the law - only find a solution that will make them pay restitution of some type and earn their status in this country.  IMO, the Democrats want only to get their hands on VOTES - nothing more.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Apart from the question of morality, the issue is the legality of the President’s executive order. If the Republicans really believe it to be illegal, they should let the proper authority – the courts- to decide it, rather than to resort to the pettiness Kyle is advocating. Hopefully, some Republicans in Congress are not as hopelessly confused about what legality means as Kyle, who wrote that “we have seen Democrats are willing to break new legal ground in this respect, as they previously did by eliminating the filibuster for certain presidential nominations.” Legality is a matter of laws, therefore Kyle should be asked to cite the LAW about filibuster.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@MarkVV 

"Morality?"  Reward those who blatanly break our immigration laws (yeah, yeah, spare me the hyperbole - they are trying to improve their lives!)?  Would you feel the same if 6 million Muslims wer the ones who came across the Rio Grande. I seriously doubt it.

"...let the proper authority – the courts- to decide it,"  By bringing a law suit against the bin Obama Administration, what do you think that is?

Finally, I may be wrong, but I don't believe there has to be approved legislation (e.g., a law) that would specifically address "filibusters."  I doubt anyone could manufacture a location that would explain that "law" if it exists.

AvailableName
AvailableName

Kyle, the fatal flaw of your plan is that Republicans would have to pass a bill.  It isn't in their current DNA.  They also have a lot of supporters out there that talk a good fiscally conservative line; but, when it comes to "my" fill in the blank, they aren't going to stand for cuts to their favorite federal "obligation." 


Stephenson_Billings
Stephenson_Billings

A fee to go into Mexico? Pilot program underway

"If you are a United States citizen and cross the border frequently you may have to pay a fee to go into Mexico.

The National Immigration Institute in Mexico (INAMI) has started a pilot program in which foreigners that enter Mexican territory for more than seven days or they will be involved in paid work, they will have to pay 306 pesos, or about 28 US dollars.

“We are doing what should be done,” said Rudolfo Figueroa, representative of INAMI in Baja California. “Foreigners who enter Mexico have the obligation to register; if they will be in national territory for more than seven days, they have to pay the right of non-residents.”

http://www.10news.com/news/foreigners-us-citizens-charged-to-enter-mexico-11132014

87GaDawg
87GaDawg

@Stephenson_Billings

Interesting.  I wonder what the Prez, and Mexico, would think if the new Congress passed a bill that the newly allowed not-citizens-but-get-to-stay workers were charged a higher tax rate for the privilege of being here.  I have actually thought that one of the bills the new guys could pass would be a 40% rate on these workers. Would America look so good then?  It could be done...

JackClemens
JackClemens

Congress doing what it's supposed to. I can live with that.

MarkVV
MarkVV

If there is anybody who believes that Kyle’s - and Republicans’ - concern here is for the expansion of the executive powers, he/or she should get a prize for naivety. Again, let’s recall the thousands of the executive orders of the past presidents of both parties. Perhaps Kyle will remind us of how many of the 291 orders of GWB he criticized.


No, the real issue here is immigration, the red flag for Republicans, but let’s be clear about what it is that the Republicans - and Kyle – oppose. What they are so virulently against is for a few millions of parents to be allowed to stay in this country with their children. Not allowed to get a citizenship – just to be allowed to stay here, and allowed to work here, instead of living in constant fear that they would be separated from their children and deported. Let’s be clear that that is what those hiding behind the opposition to the executive power in effect want – to tear apart families that sought a better life.

87GaDawg
87GaDawg

@MarkVV

You don't really believe that, do you??

Repubs usually want cheap labor for businesses.  That's why they are careful about deporting illegals.  

Dems want votes and see future legals as a voting block despite unions fighting them about it.

So, you have both sides wanting the illegals here but for different agendas.  Simple as that. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@87GaDawg @MarkVV 

Your simplistic worldview is just as naïve as believing that the Republicans’ problem is expansion of executive power. Whether you believe it or not, there are many people, who care about the lives of others.


StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@MarkVV @87GaDawg I do believe that many people care about the lives of others.  The United States government has a history of interventionism but its not because this country has a big fuzzy warm heart for citizens around the world.  Trust and believe this is not the case this time either.   The history of this country shows that immigration issues in this country has and always will be used as a means for America to get something.  What is the only question that remains when this does happen.  

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@MarkVV 

"...he/or she should get a prize for naivety(sic)..."

 The real prize for naiveté should go to those who believe that the present "bypass-the-Constitution" stance taken by bin Obama would NOT lead to citizenship and, therefore, VOTING rights.

CommonSenseisntCommon
CommonSenseisntCommon

Defund the White House over the fact that the President in your mind is overstepping his authority?


How about the HORs taking up the immigration bill that was passed with Bi-partisan support?


How about funding ICE to a greater extent to start the 11 million deportations to their home country?


How about funding the border patrol to a higher level so that more agents can be hired?

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@CommonSenseisntCommon 

Seems you have a problem with those four topics.  they sound pretty fundamental and correct as far as most voters think.  You must be in a minority (of voters, that is).

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Good approach Kyle, but I'm doubtful the GOP has the gumption to do enough to get this guy's attention.  He has ignored the will of the people for six years, even when they spoke in elections in 2010 and 2014, so he will try and ignore the Congress.  He has shown nothing but disdain for the people's House for four years.


Seems we are sinking into a third world governing mode.   El Presidente may just ignore the Congress by issuing an EO suspending the next election, and appointing himself El President for life.  He can say he has waited long enough for the people to realize he is due this honor, so he has decided to go ahead and appoint himself.  Apparently he thinks he has that power.


Caius
Caius

Heads up!


WASHINGTON -- The House Appropriations Committee confirmed Thursday what some people are already figuring out: Republicans don't have the ability to defund President Barack Obama's forthcoming executive action on immigration.

..... the House Appropriations Committee explained in a statement:

"The primary agency for implementing the President's new immigration executive order is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the 'E-Verify' program. Therefore, the Appropriations process cannot be used to 'de-fund' the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new Executive Order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.”

Caius
Caius

US Constitution, Article II, Section 2: "...and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

SimpleTruths
SimpleTruths

@Caius And that is relevant how?
  If the President pardons them today, they will be illegal anew tomorrow.

87GaDawg
87GaDawg

@Caius


So he has pardoned all the people from illegally crossing the border?  Ok, can he do that for future crimes as well?  I thought this was being labeled an act of selective enforcement.  There again, this will be interesting when a Repub is the president.

straker
straker

"the presidency, contrary to popular belief among liberals.......is not superior to Congress"


Kyle, I have never heard any liberal say that.


Have you?

dontstereotypemeyo
dontstereotypemeyo

@HeadleyLamar 

But who gets to decide what is inhumane and what isn't? To pick an utterly obvious example, a social conservative's definition of inhumane might be completely different from that of a secular progressive. So what would your response be were a (for example) President Bachmann refuse to enforce laws that she considered to be inhumane but you regard as a fundamental human right that needs to be protected?

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

I have yet to hear from any elected democrat official why, amongst all the other problems our nation faces, this is so important of an issue to jeopardize the basis of the US Constitution. 


Anybody else heard anything? 


It sort of seems like obama wants to destroy the Constitution.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@IReportYouWhine


I have yet to hear from any elected democrat official


And if this were actually "jeopardizing the basis of the US Constitution" you might hear some things.

87GaDawg
87GaDawg

@IReportYouWhine

That is the interesting question.  Why did it have to be done on November 20th?  Why not wait for the new Congress?  My guess is that he is laying a trap which is why I believe the Repubs should ignore it.  I said earlier they should plan to move on with Keystone Pipeline, jobs, balanced budget, etc.  Don't comment on it and barely even acknowledge the new EO.  The plan should be to pass bills and have the Prez either sign them or veto them.  Don't play the game he is trying to rope them into playing.  I have almost zero faith the Repubs in power will follow that path though.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@IReportYouWhine 

With the problems facing legal citizens of this great Republic - poor housing, inadequate educational process, poverty existence, etc., etc., why is not more attention paid to these people (re: Appalachia, and other areas).  Do they need to - en masse - sneak across the border into Mexico, then turn right around and come back in as "illegals?"

Silly me...you're right: it's all about VOTES.