Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on the promise that his administration would be transparent and that he would respect the Constitutional constraints on the executive branch. In an effort to drive that message home, his surrogates often reminded us that then-Senator Obama had been a Constitutional law instructor. Now in his fourth year in office, it is apparent that President Obama actually finds the Constitution an obstacle to his agenda. He has circumvented it in order to implement his agenda, irrespective of Congress. And in doing so, has shown his disdain rather than respect for the Constitution and for the principle of separation of powers.
One of the Constitution's most important aspects is the system of checks and balances. Our Founding Fathers understood that a threat to individual liberty was a government with consolidated powers. They cleverly devised a system of divided government, where the powers would be divided between the states and the federal government; and at the federal government, the power would be separated among three distinct branches: the legislative (Congress), the executive (the President), and the judiciary (the Supreme Court).
While the Constitution is quite clear about the distinct and separate roles for each of these branches, President Obama has shown difficulty in remembering that his role as President is, by design, quite limited. His administration has a tendency to ignore the law, circumvent the Constitution and checks and balances, and outright defy Congress.
Consider these examples:
- After signing Obamacare into law in 2010, the Obama administration immediately began circumventing checks and balances. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius began to wield legislative authority, granting waivers to companies and establishing new bureaucracies. Secretary Sebelius has set new budgets and new guidelines for implementing Obamacare, wholly without Congressional oversight.
- In early 2012, President Obama's HHS department announced the so-called "contraceptive mandate," which requires all employers – including religious charities and institutions – to provide free contraception to all employees, a clear violation of the Constitution's guarantees for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
- In July of 2010, President Obama's Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona for enforcing immigration laws rather than partnering with Arizona and other states to enforce federal immigration laws already on the books. Arizona was just enforcing the law that Obama refused to enforce. Under our system of checks and balances, presidents do not have the authority to pick and choose which laws they will enforce. We need our Congressional leaders to bravely stand up to the President and remind him of this basic Constitutional principle that was designed to protect our freedoms.
- In February of 2011, a federal judge in Louisiana held Obama's Department of Interior in contempt of court for "dismissive conduct." In 2010, the judge had ruled that the Department of Interior could not place a moratorium on offshore drilling. With utter disregard for the judge's ruling, the Department of Interior implemented an identical ban on offshore drilling.
- In that same month, President Obama instructed his Justice Department to stop enforcing DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, a law duly passed by Congress but inconsistent with President Obama's liberal worldview. Again, an example of his choosing to ignore the Constitution and separation of powers and not enforce the law.
- In June of this year, President Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will no longer deport young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria. The criteria was proposed by the controversial DREAM Act which has been working its way through Congress for years but has yet to be passed into law. So rather than respecting and enforcing laws that have passed the legislative process, President Obama is moving ahead of the process, creating his own law that is politically convenient for him in an election year.
- President Obama's Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) has implemented one job-killing policy after another, largely without Congressional approval or oversight.
- The president added another component to his job destroying machine when he blatantly violated constitutional law by making three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) when the Senate was still in session. This packed the board that was already excessively encroaching its duties when it filed a law suit against Boeing, claiming they illegally retaliated against union members in upon its decision to build an aircraft assembly plant in South Carolina.
In April of this year, the President began issuing warnings that the Supreme Court should not overturn his health care law. Unfortunately for the country, the Chief Justice joined with four of his liberal colleagues to undermine freedom and play costly games with the Constitution.
The House of Representatives voted last week to repeal Obamacare, pointing out that this decision is not only bad constitutional jurisprudence, but it is bad policy, and bad for America’s future freedom and prosperity. It’s now in the hands of the Senate.
But that's not all. Just Friday, the HHS department blatantly expanded its power by changing the landmark welfare reform law that I coauthored back in 1996. Congress made clear then that mandatory work requirements for welfare recipients could snot be stripped without congressional action. However, on President Obama's watch, HHS has arrogantly gutted the work requirements from the bill and completely changed the intent of the law.
Barack Obama's record as President shows his flippant disregard for the Constitution. He has no need for separation of powers or checks and balances. He is, quite simply, a law unto himself. Acting as an authoritarian rather than an democratically-elected leader, he bullies and threatens the other branches of government. This disturbing and arrogant behavior is unbecoming of any president of any party. It is dangerous. And if this dangerous man has the opportunity to govern for four more years, I strongly believe our county's future is at risk.
In November, we will have the opportunity to vote President Obama out of office and help restore the Constitution. The abuses of King George should remain in the past rather than in our future. It is time to stand for freedom once again.
Rick Santorum, a former representative and senator from Pennsylvania, ran as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He is the founder of Patriot Voices, an organization to mobilize one million conservatives committed to promoting faith, family, freedom, and opportunity.