|For Immediate Release
September 12, 2012
Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Full Committee Hearing on
The Obama Administration’s Abuse of Power
Chairman Smith: This Committee has held hearings on many of the ways in which the Obama Administration has abused its power, ignored its duties, evaded responsibility and overstepped the Constitution’s limits on the President.
Today's hearing will look at the pattern of ignoring constitutional limits created by all of these abuses.
The Administration has repeatedly put its partisan agenda above the rule of law. In doing so, it has eroded the constitutional and legal foundations that have kept America prosperous and free for over 200 years.
President Obama has to an unprecedented extent failed to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Instead, he has repeatedly issued blanket waivers that exempt large classes of the population from duly enacted laws.
For example, the President once acknowledged that for him “to simply through executive order ignore” the immigration laws on the books “would not conform with [his] appropriate role as President.”
Nonetheless, he acted contrary to his own words and decided not to enforce some immigration laws.
As a result, in these times of sustained unemployment, American workers will be forced to compete with illegal immigrants who, according to the law should not be given work permits.
Similarly, the Administration has issued waivers to the No Child Left Behind Act and the Welfare reform bill that are so broad that they effectively rewrite the law instead of enforcing it.
Just because you don’t like a law, doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Many people have gone to jail for doing just that.
The President ignored the Senate’s constitutional role in the appointment process in order to place partisans in key positions that regulate labor and financial markets. To do so, he took the unprecedented position that he could make a so-called “recess” appointment even when the Senate, by its own rules, was not in recess.
The Administration also has shown contempt for Congressional oversight of its activities.
In order to hide documents related to the Fast & Furious scandal, the President asserted a broad executive privilege that is not supported by precedent.
Executive privilege cannot apply to documents that don’t involve the President or his close advisers if “there is any reason to believe government misconduct occurred.”
Operation Fast & Furious and the Administration’s misleading statements to Congress about the operation are exactly the sort of misconduct that Presidents may not conceal behind a claim of privilege.
By concealing the truth about Fast & Furious behind an improper claim of privilege, the President has undermined the Constitutional requirement that the Executive branch answer for its actions to Congress and the American people.
The President has also ignored the Constitution’s protections of individual rights, most notably religious freedom.
By mandating that employers pay for health care products and services that many employers believe to be morally wrong, he has forced Americans to choose between violating the law or violating their religious beliefs. The Constitution does not allow the government to put Americans to such a choice.
Together, these abuses by the Obama Administration form a disturbing pattern. When the Constitution and laws limit the Administration’s ability to impose its partisan agenda, the President ignores the Constitution and laws. This pattern of behavior hurts our country, disrespects the Constitution, and undermines our democracy.
It is easy to think of disputes about the President's power as abstract questions of constitutional theory, unimportant to anyone but law professors and DC insiders.
But when the Administration repeatedly ignores constitutional and legal limits on the President's power, it undermines the rule of law, with very real consequences.
In 2008, the United States ranked number 1 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. In just four years, we have fallen to the seventh most competitive economy in the world.
According to the report, a large part of America’s lost competitiveness comes from the decline in faith in public institutions and the government.
The Obama administration’s continued abuse of authority contributes to this decline in faith in our institutions and creates uncertainty that undermines America’s job creators and businesses.
America has been the most prosperous and free nation in the world in large part because of our adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law. Today’s hearing examines how the Obama Administration has ignored this long tradition and how we can return to it.