House to Vote on Bill to Stop ‘Imperial Presidency’ Next Week

McMorris Rodgers: ‘He may have his pen and his phone, but we have the Constitution’

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.) / AP
March 6, 2014

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) laid out their plans to counter President Barack Obama’s executive overreach, in a conference call Thursday.

The House will continue its efforts to push back against the "imperial presidency" next week, by voting on additional legislation that would allow Congress to challenge executive moves in federal court.

"Clearly President Obama has taken the über presidency to a whole new level," McMorris Rodgers said. "While it’s not new for presidents to stretch their constitutional limits of power, executive overreach has accelerated at a faster pace under President Obama."

"Throughout his tenure we have witnessed a pattern," she said. "When the president disagrees with laws, he ignores them. And now that Obamacare isn’t working, President Obama is rewriting his own law on a whim."

"He may have his pen and his phone, but we have the Constitution, and we must abide by it," McMorris Rodgers said.

Republican complaints against Obama’s unilateral actions were only exacerbated this week when the administration announced that individuals would be able to keep their so-called "substandard" health insurance plans that do not comply with Obamacare until October 2017.

"This is just another example of the president picking and choosing portions of the law that he wants to enforce," McMorris Rodgers said. "If you’ve spent any time around the legislative process, you know that there’s a big difference between the word ‘shall’ and ‘may.’ And you don’t have the choice when you are implementing the law to decide that you’re going to treat it as a ‘may.’ And that is what this president is doing."

"[Obama] is unilaterally deciding what portions of the law he is going to implement and how and when he’s going to go about that," she said.

Chairman Issa, who has led the push against the IRS targeting of conservative groups, said what is more concerning is the lack of transparency by the Obama administration.

Overreach at the IRS stands out, Issa said, while other abuses go unnoticed.

"The harder ones are simple discovery," he said. "Every committee of the Congress has asked for and not received information on areas [such as] Benghazi, Fast and Furious, investigations of wrongdoing often having nothing directly to do with the president."

"But repeatedly the president—who promised us the most transparent administration—has been the least willing to cooperate with Congress’ need to hold people accountable," Issa said.

The lawmakers said H.R. 4138, the "ENFORCE the Law Act," sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) is the best solution to ensure the president abides by Article II, section 3, the obligation to faithfully execute the law.

"It would be a clear delineation that Congress, either the House or the Senate, on behalf of the American people would have the ability to bring to the courts, just as an individual might if they have been harmed by their government, a concern about an executive order, or any overreach or misuse of the law," Issa said.

The bill would authorize the House or Senate to sue the executive branch for not enforcing laws and provide an expedited process through federal district courts.

"This expedited review is crucial in order to ensure 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," Gowdy’s office said when announcing the legislation.

Gowdy said the most recent Obamacare delay emphasizes the need for his legislation.

"The latest delay once again illustrates how the president will unilaterally change a law to suit his political needs—even if it is his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act," he said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

"The administration is rewriting our laws by administrative fiat. This is not how our system was designed to work and the American people expect us to step up and take a stand," Gowdy said.  "The ENFORCE the Law Act is one more remedy Congress can use to rein in executive overreach."

Issa said the bill is the "perfect example" of what the House can do to "push back against any imperial presidency."

"The left is constantly bringing suits to the EPA based on not doing enough on clean air and clean water and so on, and they’re always granted standing and then ultimately they often are forcing the EPA through ‘sue and settle’ to do things," he said. "And yet when the president does something through executive order, or the EPA does something beyond their jurisdiction, it’s very hard to get into court. So this is a really smart way to do it."

The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. Though Democrats control the Senate, Issa said Republicans are serious about advancing the legislation and could attach it to a "must-pass" bill, such as a budgetary measure, to force the Senate’s hand.

"One of the biggest challenges that we’ve had, specifically related to Obamacare, is that no one has standing in court yet," McMorris Rodgers said. "Members in the House of Representatives have a responsibility to the people that we represent— 700,000 a piece."