Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved in a vote of 244-171 the Faithful Execution of the Law Act (H.R. 3973), a bill to ensure greater transparency and disclosure regarding the Executive Branch’s enforcement of federal law.

Under current law, the Justice Department is required to report to Congress whenever it decides to adopt a policy to refrain from enforcing federal law on the grounds that the law in question is unconstitutional.  The Faithful Execution of the Law Act, introduced by Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), strengthens this provision by requiring the Attorney General to report to Congress whenever any federal official establishes or implements a formal or informal policy to refrain from enforcing a federal law.  It also requires the Attorney General to report on the reason for the non-enforcement, regardless of whether it is being done on constitutional or other grounds. 

Congressman Ron DeSantis and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) praised today’s vote by the House of Representatives. 

Rep. DeSantis: “Congress and the American people deserve to know when and why the Obama Administration suspends the faithful execution of certain laws. Congress has a responsibility to protect its constitutional authority and the American people should be able to evaluate the actions of the executive branch.  Clearly, suspending laws in order to help a particular party win an election is not consistent with the constitutional duty that the executive take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Chairman Goodlatte:  “Throughout the past five years, we’ve witnessed a pattern: when President Obama disagrees with laws, he circumvents them. And now that his signature healthcare law isn’t working, President Obama has changed it by himself over 20 times, even though the law doesn’t provide him the authority to do so. All too often, the American people’s elected representatives in Congress have learned about the Obama Administration’s lack of enforcement or unilateral changes to our laws through the media rather than from the President. Congress should not have to rely on media leaks and other unofficial sources to find out that the Executive Branch has decided not to enforce our laws. 

“If Congress is going to play an active role in overseeing that the separation of powers between the three branches of government is maintained and that the President is faithfully executing the laws, then we need to know the extent of the Executive Branch’s lack of enforcement. I am pleased that the House today has approved the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, which promotes transparency and honesty in our government by requiring our nation’s top law enforcement officer to shed light on the Administration’s policies of non-enforcement. I thank my colleague, Congressman Ron DeSantis, for introducing this commonsense bill and urge my colleagues in the Senate to take up this bill as soon as possible.”

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 multiple occasions to enforce Acts of Congress that he disagrees with for policy reasons and has stretched his regulatory authority to put in place policies that Congress has refused to enact.  Although President Obama is not the first president to stretch his powers beyond their constitutional limits, constitutional scholars note that executive overreach has accelerated at an alarming rate under his Administration.

More on executive overreach can be found here.