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Throughout the last century, Congress has been delegating a lot of its legislative authority to the executive branch through the creation of new administrative agencies to make new regulations.
Be it the EPA for environmental affairs, the FCC for communications, the FHA for housing, the FDA for food and medicine, and many, many, many more agencies in the federal government, it seems that there is always an organization to make rules about the different aspects of individuals’ livelihoods, which is both supposed to be congress’s job and a vast overreach of authority since much of what they legislate on is not authorized by the constitution. With the vast expansion of these agencies, former Governor of New York and presidential candidate Al Smith summed it up best when he said the government was “submerged in a bowl of alphabet soup.”
The Founding Fathers believed the separation of powers among the executive and legislative branches to be very important as they found giving the enforcer of the law the authority to write the laws would lead to a great expanse of centralized power. No one articulated this better than Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The principle of the Constitution is that of a separation of legislative, Executive and Judiciary functions, except in cases specified. If this principle be not expressed in direct terms, it is clearly the spirit of the Constitution, and it ought to be so commented and acted on by every friend of free government.”
The reasoning is best presented in Federalist No. 51, where James Madison wrote, “But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defence must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man, must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”
It would appear that their fears about the expanses of power were found to be accurate. Just recently, we have seen all sorts of power grabs with the EPA declaring its authority a very high percentage of the water in the US with its “Waters of the US Rule,” the FCC imposing itself on the internet with its “Open Internet Order,” and the creation of the CFPB which has been given the authority to regulate the entire financial industry with little to no oversight. There is nothing theoretical about the threats of a wearing down of separation of powers, the evidence is very clear.
To address this, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) introduced H. Res 330 to help reassert Congress’s authority. The Article One Restoration Resolution, named after the article which outlines the legislative branch’s authority, would make new regulations subject to congressional oversight and review. This would be a major step in the right direction for reaffirming the separation of powers.
According to Rep. Davidson, H.Res. 330 would “require the House’s sixteen major legislating committees to recommend ‘changes in those laws [under their jurisdiction] sufficient to eliminate excessive executive branch discretion in the application of those laws.’” Those committees would have the ability to rein in vague laws that give too much discretion to regulatory agencies and allow them to overstep their authority by passing regulations to increase their power. This resolution is just the law is needed to restore balance and stop overreach.
There are other bills that will be needed to address the cessation of power, such as the REINS Act, introduced by Doug Collins (R-Ga.), but this is a great first step in bringing reform. We have already seen significant reform by the Trump administration on regulations so this would be a great next step. For this reason, this resolution will help rollback the regulatory state.