Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved three bills to rein in the growing problem of executive overreach and restore balance to the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.
First, the Committee approved by a vote of 17-11 the Faithful Execution of the Law Act (H.R. 3973), authored by Representative Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). The legislation strengthens current law and promotes transparency and honesty in the federal government by requiring all federal officials who establish or implement a formal or informal policy to refrain from enforcing a federal law to report to Congress on the reason for the non-enforcement.
Second, the Committee approved by a vote of 18-14 the Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law (ENFORCE the Law) Act (H.R. 4138), introduced by Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Representative Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.). 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. The ENFORCE the Law Act is crucial to ensuring 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.
And third, the Committee approved by a vote of 17-14 the Immigration Compliance Enforcement (ICE) Act (H.R. 3732), authored by Representative Diane Black (R-Tenn.). This legislation defunds the “public advocate” position, regardless of the title of the job, within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although an amendment authored by Rep. Black to defund this position was included in the final Continuing Resolution that was signed into law last spring, the Obama Administration quietly changed the title of the position, kept the same person in it, and made no changes to the job itself.
Below are statements from Chairman Goodlatte and Representatives Gowdy, Issa, Gerlach, DeSantis, and Black on today’s Committee approval of these three bills.
Chairman Goodlatte: “Our Constitution is clear: Congress writes our laws and the President enforces them. But for the past five years, President Obama repeatedly has waived, amended, or ignored our laws by issuing executive decrees from the Oval Office rather than working with Americans’ representatives in Congress. For example, we’ve witnessed President Obama systematically dismantle our immigration laws and rewrite his signature healthcare law even though he doesn’t have the authority to do so. This pattern of executive overreach undermines the rule of law and threatens the individual liberty that our system of separated powers is designed to protect.
“Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved three bills that will help restore the separation of powers and prevent the Executive Branch from stretching its constitutional limits of power. These bills – the ENFORCE the Law Act, the ICE Act, and the Faithful Execution of the Law Act – allow Congress to challenge executive overreach in the courts, expedite judicial review of those challenges, prevent the Obama Administration from keeping a congressionally-defunded, politicized job at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and increase accountability and transparency when the Executive Branch decides not to enforce a law. It is ultimately up to the Congress and the courts to check the President’s overreach and restore balance to our system of government. I look forward to the House of Representatives taking action on these bills soon.”
Rep. Gowdy: “The President wants the American people to believe there is no harm in going around our Constitution to accomplish his goals. But as a prosecutor, I saw confessions thrown out of court on technical violations. In this country, we know our system is set up so the way we do things is just as important as what we do: the process matters. Why would it be any different for our Chief Executive?
“This is not a partisan issue. I would hope my colleagues agree regardless of political party, as Members of Congress, we have a responsibility to restore constitutional order. The ENFORCE the Law Act will give Congress the authority to defend the legislative branch as the Framers and our fellow citizens would expect.”
Rep. Issa: “For too long President Obama has cherry picked the laws he wishes to enforce. Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved three bills to limit the Executive Branch from randomly choosing which laws to enforce and which to ignore. The Constitution charges the President with the responsibility to faithfully execute all the laws and not just the ones he supports. The Executive Branch has grown so bloated and convoluted that it now comfortably abuses its power knowing that the complexity of its actions and judicial procedure will effectively allow it to circumvent the other two branches of our government. We must restore a working system of checks and balances that ensures the government’s actions are judged on constitutional merits rather than bypassed or delayed based on the political whims of the President and his appointees. This legislation provides the simple expedited procedure that lawmakers and the American people need to hold their federal government accountable.”
Rep. Gerlach: “The Judiciary Committee took an important step today in restoring a co-equal balance of power between Congress and the President. By creating a fast-track, independent judicial review of executive actions, we will improve accountability and ensure all presidents meet their Constitutional obligation to faithfully execute all laws. The Judiciary Committee and Chairman Goodlatte have done a tremendous job highlighting the need for Congress to act on this issue, and I look forward to continue working with Chairman Goodlatte and all of our colleagues in the House to get this bill to the President’s desk.”
Rep. DeSantis: “My legislation will restore transparency to the federal government by requiring the administration to justify their non-enforcement of duly-enacted laws to the American people. President Obama has not faithfully executed the laws but instead has suspended, changed and waived laws as he deems appropriate — even though he lacks the constitutional authority to do so. It is my hope that this sunlight will prove to be a disinfectant that will serve to hinder the President from usurping the authority of Congress.”
Rep. Black: “No President is above the very laws they sign. The American people expect their elected officials to follow the laws of the land, and the ICE Act is a legislative solution to a problem created by President Obama when his Administration decided to circumvent the law. This Administration has sadly eroded the trust of the American people by refusing to enforce our nation’s laws, losing goodwill among Members of Congress in the process. I thank Chairman Goodlatte and the House Judiciary Committee for quickly passing this commonsense legislation to eliminate this wasteful position.”
Background: 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.
Some examples of President Obama’s failure to take care that the laws are faithfully executed include delaying the Obamacare employer mandate; the backdoor enactment of the Dream Act; granting welfare work requirement waivers in violation of the 1996 welfare reform law; failing to enforce federal drug laws in states that permit medical and recreational marijuana use; and the announcement that the Justice Department will stop prosecuting low-level drug offenders under mandatory minimum sentencing laws. While there are varying opinions on these important issues within Congress, the Constitution grants Congress, not the President, the power to make these decisions.