Robert Hurt: Constitution Day reminds us of our founding principles
Last week, we marked the 228th anniversary of the signing of our United States Constitution. As we paused to reflect on the meaning of this remarkable document, we were again reminded of its vital purpose and the nation that our framers envisioned.
Signed on September 17, 1787 during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the Constitution is a revered document that enshrined our freedoms as Americans and created the nation of laws that we know today. Our founding principles of liberty and limited government have made this country a beacon of freedom here at home and across the world.
Virginia’s own James Madison, the first member of Congress elected to serve Virginia’s Fifth District in 1789, is known as the Father of the Constitution. His influence was unparalleled in the debating, adoption, and ratification of this document that has served as the American blueprint for freedom. Without his leadership, many believe the Bill of Rights would never have been adopted.
Our Founders crafted a Constitution with limited and enumerated powers for each of the three branches of government. Under our Constitution, Congress makes the laws, the President executes the laws, and the Judiciary settles legal disputes in a way that protects the Constitution and the constitutional rights of our citizens. The Founders meticulously designed this system in a way that does not concentrate too much power in any single branch because they understood that if one branch possessed too much authority to act unilaterally, it could harm the inherent rights of the people without recourse.
Unfortunately, over time, we have seen this system slowly erode, driven by two trends: the abdication of legislative authority by the Congress and the usurpation of authority by the executive. Leaders in both parties over the years have contributed to these developments. Too often, Congress has passed legislation that cedes too much decision-making authority to the executive for the sake of political expediency. Too many would rather blame an agency to avoid being held accountable for their actions. It is incumbent on the Congress to maintain control over policy-making and take responsibility for the decisions it makes.
At the same time, the executive branch under both Democrats and Republicans continues to go above and beyond the authority Congress delegates to it, expanding its reach far past its intended constitutional role. The current Administration has taken this behavior to another level, as we have seen it act time and time again to effectively rewrite laws in the absence of congressional approval – and sometimes in the face of express prohibition by Congress. Whether it is rewriting provisions of the President’s healthcare law, ignoring congressional intent on environmental law, or adopting policies that outright contradict our immigration laws, this Administration’s disdain for the separation of powers and the rule of law poses a significant threat to the freedom of every American.
It is our job as members of Congress to work within the framework our Constitution established and make policy that adheres to the principles it enshrines. I have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and it is an oath I take very seriously. We must not lose sight of the system of government our Founders envisioned when they convened at the Constitutional Convention. Let this Constitution Day remind us of the virtue of our Founders’ designs and the need to follow our founding principles so that we can leave our children and grandchildren a better America than our parents left to us.
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.