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The House of Representatives passed the “Enforce the Law Act” Wednesday, a bill designed to push back against the numerous unilateral moves the Obama administration has used to circumvent the law.
Five Democrats joined Republicans in passing the bill by a 233 to 181 vote.
H.R. 4138, sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), would authorize the House or Senate to sue the executive branch for not enforcing laws and provide an expedited process through federal district courts. The bill is one of several the House GOP is pushing to combat the “imperial presidency.”
Republicans say the legislation is necessary in light of the numerous administrative actions taken by President Barack Obama to change and selectively enforce laws, including immigration, marriage, welfare rules, and his signature legislative achievement, Obamacare.
The administration has unilaterally altered Obamacare at least 20 times. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that millions have been exempted from the individual mandate due to a rule change.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) said the Obama administration has “ignored” the Constitution.
“From Obamacare to welfare and education reform, to our nation’s drug enforcement and immigration laws, President Obama has been picking and choosing which laws to enforce,” he said. “In place of the checks and balances established by the Constitution, President Obama has proclaimed that ‘I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer’ and that ‘where [Congress] won’t act, I will.’”
“Throughout the Obama presidency we have seen a pattern: President Obama circumvents Congress when he doesn’t get his way,” Goodlatte said.
Democrats called the vote a “sham.”
“It is simply another attempt by the majority to prevent the President of the United States to implement duly enacted legislative initiatives that they [the Republicans] oppose,” Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) said.
The administration’s unilateral changes are simply the “reality of implementing sometimes complex laws,” Conyers said, referring to Obamacare.
Jonathan Turley disagrees. He testified at a House hearing last month that America is at a “constitutional tipping point.”
“The fact that I happen to think the president is right on many of these policies does not alter the fact that I believe the means he is doing [it] is wrong, and that this can be a dangerous change in our system,” the liberal law professor said. “And our system is changing in a very fundamental way. And it’s changing without a whimper of regret or opposition.”
Arguing that Obama should agree with the legislation, Gowdy gave a “pop quiz” on the House floor prior to the vote.
“That may seem unfair to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but I’m going to give them a hint,” he said. “The answer to every one of the questions is the same.”
“I’m going to read a quote and then you tell me who said it,” Gowdy said. “‘These last few years we’ve seen an unacceptable abuse of power having a president whose priority is expanding his own power.’ Any guess on who said that? Mr. Speaker, it was Sen. Barack Obama.”
“Here’s another one: ‘No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as a coequal branch the Constitution made it.’”
“’I taught the Constitution for 10 years, I believe in the Constitution,’” Gowdy again quoted then-Sen. Obama.
“So my question Mr. Speaker is what’s changed?” Gowdy asked. “How does going from being a senator to a president rewrite the constitution? What’s different from when he was a senator?”