Each of the three branches of the federal government was meant to be equal and serve as a check on the others. That’s what the framers of the Constitution intended when they gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. They had a unique perspective on the type of government needed to protect individual freedom, having fought for independence from a tyrannical king.
Slowly, though, power-hungry presidents who wanted more control eroded the limitations placed on government in the Constitution and on the protected freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Fidelity to the Constitution and the spirit of independence, which are what make America such a unique nation, were suppressed as lethargic lawmakers allowed the executive branch to became, as the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy describes it, a “cult.”
This is a bipartisan problem. When Democrats have control of Congress and the White House, they do little more than serve as a rubber stamp of a president’s agenda. Republicans haven’t been any better. But in this era of divided government, when a president – especially one who doesn’t like finding common ground – can’t get his way, he resorts to circumventing Congress and enacting his agenda through executive fiat.
The Supreme Court’s recent hearing on the legal challenge brought forward by more than two dozen states, led by Texas, to President Obama’s attempted use of executive action to unilaterally change immigration policy is Exhibit A in why Senate Republicans must hold their ground and refuse to hold hearings or a vote on the president’s nominee to a seat on the high court.
While some are interested in the case because of the impact it will have on immigration policy, the concern for many conservatives and libertarians is the damage, if this executive overreach is allowed to stand, that the precedent will have on the constitutional separation of powers. Is our government made up of three equal branches, or does the executive have some special powers to do what it wants, when it wants, even when Congress rejects its policies?
That brings us to Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the high court.