As President Obama’s critics grow increasingly concerned about his use of executive power, they’re also examining their options.
In the House, more than 100 Republican members have signed on to the Stop This Overreaching President (STOP) Resolution. In it, Rep. Tom Rice, R-SC, lays out the ways in which he believes the president has violated his Article 2, Section 3 constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
Rice points to the president’s unilateral modifications to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), welfare-to-work requirements and immigration laws.
If a majority of House members support the STOP resolution, it would authorize a civil lawsuit against Obama. In the past, members have had a tough time launching lawsuits against a sitting president.
Former Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio tried to sue both President George W. Bush and Obama. Both times, a federal judge turned away his lawsuits.
Georgetown University law professor Nicholas Rosenkranz has doubts that the current effort will be successful, but grasps the motivation. “I quite understand their frustration,” he says, adding, “The president has taken a lot of actions that seem a bit more like writing law or rewriting law – rather than taking care that it be faithfully executed.”
Rosenkranz says another tool could be more effective for Congress: the power of the purse. He notes that it gives members a great deal of leverage when they’re united.
It’s a tactic Sen.Mike Lee, R-Utah, is publicly floating. “James Madison talked about this and said when the president abuses his power, the best thing Congress can do is withhold funding for the president, so the president can’t continue to hurt the American people,” he said.
There is yet another option which few are willing to publicly discuss. “A check on executive lawlessness is impeachment,” Rosenkranz said in a House hearing last December. Kucinich says the maneuver should be reserved for only “the most extraordinary circumstances,” but admits “it’s in the Constitution as a check against the abuse of power.”
Even some of Obama’s own one-time supporters say he would be wise to remember his words from the 2008 campaign trail. On March 31, 2008, then-Senator Obama told a crowd at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, “I take the Constitution very seriously.”
He went on to say that one of the country’s biggest problems was the use of executive power by then-President Bush, adding, “That’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”
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