David Karaffa: Is representative government failing?
Due to the increased scope that our president has applied to using his executive pen, the Presidential Executive Order has become the subject of recent debate. Not since President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “New Deal” has the Executive Order’s power and authority been so expanded. It had become so ridiculous that in 1952 the Supreme Court (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer) established a test that has been used to evaluate the validity of an Executive Order. The test is that if an Executive Order clarifies or helps implement through governmental policy a law that was legally passed by Congress or written into the Constitution, it is legal. However, if an Executive Order attempts to make law and/or unmake law, it is invalid.
I believe in many cases, President Obama’s Executive Orders have failed to pass the Supreme Court’s test. President Obama has used his executive privilege to order that parts of laws, especially the Affordable Care Act, be held, removed, or edited in ways that circumvent Congress. Instead of helping to implement law, it has been used to hinder implementation of law. The President has also used the Executive Order to make law, such as not pursuing certain groups of illegal immigrants.
In the President’s recent State of the Union address, he threatened to do more; he threatened to act with or without Congress. This is a bold and alarming statement for any President to make. Not only is it a blatant declaration that he will not allow Constitutional checks and balances to stop him from his pursuits, but he is proclaiming that our current form of government does not work. The Constitution clearly establishes safeguards to make sure that the citizens of this country do not fall victim to one person’s will. We have those safeguards in our current government between the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. It is now up to those branches of government to use the test that has been established by our Supreme Court and to evaluate President Obama’s use of Executive Orders.
It is time for American citizens to engage what is happening to our eroding representative government. Our legislators are becoming more distant and divided; they refuse to govern and choose to bicker. How long will we allow this? We must demand that our representatives do their duty and rein in the executive branch and re-establish those safeguards that protect us from a centralized power which seeks to set rule without the consent of those who are governed.
David A. Karaffa represents the Beverley Manor District on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.