Robert Hurt: Separation of powers must be respected

robert hurtEnshrined in our United States Constitution, our Founders meticulously designed three branches of government so that too much power would not be concentrated in any one branch. This is because they understood that if one branch were to possess 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, the most prominent examples in recent memory have shown ‎a combination of two trends – the aggressive expansion of executive authority by the President and the abdication of legislative authority by the Congress.  This not only undermines the Founders’ design but it creates a direct threat to our representative form of government and ultimately to 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, 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 and federal agencies.

We saw yet another example of that abuse in action last week as we learned that the Administration has taken it upon themselves to delay thousands of deportation cases rather than faithfully execute and enforce our immigration laws duly enacted by our legislative branch.  This Administration would rather encourage further illegal immigration, which is already a substantial problem in our country, rather than adhere to the law simply to advance the President’s political agenda.  They did so even after the recent Supreme Court decision that affirmed the illegality of the President’s “deferred action” immigration scheme, meaning that the Administration has defied both of its co-equal branches of government.  It is deeply distressing that this brazen lack of respect for the boundaries of constitutional authority has proven to be the norm throughout the past seven and a half years, which has not only produced bad policy outcomes but also caused severe damage to our separation of powers and the protections they afford our citizens.

Since I have been in Washington we have witnessed countless examples executive overreach by the Obama Administration – from immigration, to EPA regulations, to health care, to national security, the list goes on –  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.

It is high time that we return to the founding principles set out in our Constitution. As we look to the future and the prospect of a new president, 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 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.

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