Washington, D.C. – Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today introduced the Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law (ENFORCE the Law) Act (H.R. 4138) to rein in the growing problem of executive overreach and restore balance to the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution. The introduction of this bill follows the House Judiciary Committee’s careful consideration of the President’s failure to faithfully execute our laws. The Committee has held two hearings on this issue, at which members heard from constitutional scholars on the scope of this problem and legislative solutions. The House Judiciary Committee will markup the ENFORCE the Law Act tomorrow at 10:30am in 2141 Rayburn.
Article II, section 3, of the U.S. Constitution declares that the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” However, President Obama has failed on several occasions to enforce Acts of Congress that he disagrees with for policy reasons and has also stretched his regulatory authority to put in place policies Congress has refused to enact. While President Obama is not the first to stretch presidential powers beyond their constitutional limits, executive overreach has accelerated at an alarming rate under his Administration.
To prevent executive overreach, the ENFORCE the Law Act puts a procedure in place to permit the House, or the Senate, to authorize a lawsuit against the Executive Branch for failure to faithfully execute the laws. The legislation also provides for expedited consideration of any such lawsuit, first through a three-judge panel at the federal district court level and then by providing for direct appeal to the United States Supreme Court. This expedited review is crucial in order to ensure that when a lawsuit is brought against the Administration to enforce our laws, the courts not only grant Congress standing, but also hear the case on an expedited timeline to prevent the President from stalling the litigation until his term is up.
Congressman Gowdy, the chief sponsor of the bill, Congressman Issa, and Chairman Goodlatte released the statements below on the bill’s introduction.
Congressman Gowdy: “This administration’s disregard for the law has reached an unprecedented level from a constitutional perspective. From unilaterally changing the Affordable Care Act, to suspending parts of our immigration laws, to ignoring statutory mandatory minimum laws in narcotics cases, the President’s actions threaten to usurp our system of co-equal branches of government. We have pursued certain remedies afforded to Congress to address executive overreach but these efforts have been thwarted. This bill is necessary; it will give Congress the authority to defend this branch of government as the Framers and our fellow citizens would expect.
“The Constitution is clear: the President has a duty to faithfully execute the law—regardless of whether he likes the law or if it is politically expedient.”
Congressman Issa: “This legislation adds balance to an Executive Branch that has grown so bloated and convoluted that it now comfortably abuses its power knowing that the complexity of its actions and judicial backlogs will allow it to effectively get away with it. This isn’t how the framers of our Constitution envisioned our system working. This legislation adds tools for the American people to have more accountability from their federal government.”
Chairman Goodlatte: “Throughout President Obama’s tenure, we’ve witnessed a pattern: when the President disagrees with laws, he ignores them. And now that Obamacare isn’t working, President Obama is rewriting his own law on a whim, even though the law doesn’t give him the authority to do so. President Obama boldly asserts that he has a ‘pen and a phone’ to change our laws through executive decrees, but we have a Constitution and we must abide by it. We cannot allow President Obama, or any president, to ignore the constitutional limits on executive power.
“It is up to the Congress and the courts to check the President’s overreach and restore balance to our system of government. That is why I have joined Congressman Gowdy and Issa in introducing the ENFORCE the Law Act. Preventing the President from overstepping the boundaries of his constitutional authority is not about partisan politics. It is about preserving the fundamental premise of our constitutional design: that a limited government, divided into three separate branches exercising enumerated powers, is necessary to protect individual liberty and the rule of law.”
The full summary of the bill can be found here.