Policy: Law

Obama threatens vetoes of bills requiring him to follow the law

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Barack Obama,Constitutionality,Law

President Obama is threatening to veto a law that would allow Congress to sue him in federal courts for arbitrarily changing or refusing to enforce federal laws because it "violates the separation of powers" by encroaching on his presidential authority.

"[T]he power the bill purports to assign to Congress to sue the President over whether he has properly discharged his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed exceeds constitutional limitations," the White House Office of Management and Budget said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy. "Congress may not assign such power to itself, nor may it assign to the courts the task of resolving such generalized political disputes."

The lead sponsor of the measure, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said it was designed to curb Obama's abuse of presidential authority, most notably in his frequent changes to Obamacare.

"We have pursued certain remedies afforded to Congress to address executive overreach but these efforts have been thwarted," Gowdy said. "This bill is necessary; it will give Congress the authority to defend this branch of government as the Framers and our fellow citizens would expect."

Obama also threatened to veto another bill by Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., which would require the administration to explain decisions not to enforce laws when those decisions are rooted in policy concerns rather than just constitutional concerns (which the Justice Department is already required to do).

"The American people deserve to know exactly which laws the Obama administration is refusing to enforce and why," DeSantis said when introducing his bill.

OMB said DeSantis' law is too burdensome. "The bill would inordinately expand current law, which already requires reports to Congress when non-enforcement of federal law is based on constitutional grounds," Obama's team said in a statement of administration policy.

"Federal agencies are continually engaged in the process of determining how to concentrate limited enforcement resources most effectively. ... The vastly expanded reporting scheme required by the bill would be unduly burdensome and would place the Attorney General in the unprecedented position of having to be kept informed of and report on enforcement decisions made by every other Federal agency," the statement continued.

The House is scheduled to vote on both bills Wednesday.

On the same day that DeSantis introduced his bill, Attorney General Eric Holder told Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that he thought Obama was "probably at the height of his constitutional power" when issuing the delays of Obamacare mandates, though he acknowledged that he couldn't explain the precise legal analysis.

"When you look at the quality, not just the quantity but the quality, the nature of the executive orders that he has issued, he has usurped an extraordinary amount of authority within the executive branch," Lee said at the time. "This is not precedented, and I point to the delay — the unilateral delay, lawless delay, in my opinion — of the employer mandate as an example of this. And so, at a minimum, I think he owes us an explanation as to what his legal analysis was."

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