In our U.S. Constitution, our Founders meticulously designed three branches of government so that too much power would not be concentrated in any one branch because they understood that if one branch possessed unchecked authority, that power would ultimately diminish the inherent rights of the individual citizen.
Article I of our Constitution created the Congress – the legislative branch – to write the laws; Article II created the office of the President – the executive branch – to faithfully execute the laws made by Congress; and Article III created the U.S. Supreme Court – the judicial branch – to assure that the actions of the Congress and the President are in keeping with our Constitution. Unfortunately, over the last several decades, the combination of two trends – the aggressive expansion of executive authority by the President and the abdication of legislative authority by the Congress – have undermined the Founders’ design and created a direct threat to our representative form of government and ultimately our individual liberty.
Over the years, we have seen Republican and Democratic presidential administrations usurp more and more legislative power through their executive agencies. Likewise, over the years we have witnessed Republican and Democratic Congresses that have not jealously guarded their legislative prerogatives and have ceded more and more legislative power to the White House.
Since I have been in Washington we have witnessed numerous examples executive overreach by the Obama Administration – despite efforts by the Congress to reassert its proper role. So often, it seems that this Administration has ignored the Congress and proceeded to make far-reaching new policy that ultimately jeopardizes our individual right of self-governance.
Just this week, we were reminded of two egregious examples of this disturbing trend.
First, the Department of Justice announced that it will be releasing 6,000 convicted prisoners in the coming weeks before they have served their full sentences imposed by the courts. And while the Administration has cited the overcrowding of federal penitentiaries as the reason for this decision, there are those that question the President’s authority to unilaterally set aside congressionally sanctioned criminal sentences lawfully imposed by a federal court.
In another example, we have seen push by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose its extreme Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule that imposes tremendous costs upon and infringes upon the freedoms of our family farmers. I was pleased to see that the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the EPA must halt the implementation of this rule pending further constitutional review – indicating that this rule was written in a way that dramatically exceeds the Administration’s authority under the Clean Water Act.
There are many more examples of these trends which illustrate that it is high time that we return to the founding principles set out in our Constitution. As we look to the future we must look for every way to restore to Congress its original power as defined in Article I and, thereby, restore the power of the people.
If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at hurt.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.
Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District of Virginia in Congress.