In our previous article, we pointed out the unlawful actions of President Obama in his use of recess appointments. Two other unconstitutional practices of modern Presidents are the misuse of “signing statements” and “Executive Orders”, and Obama has abused this practice more so than any of our previous Presidents.
In an era of multi-thousands page “comprehensive legislation” and “omnibus spending bills”, laden with irrelevant amendments that plunder our treasury and expand the control of government over our lives, Presidents started using Signing Statements to express their disapproval of segments of the legislation. Occasionally they will express in the statement their intention to not enforce certain portions of the bill because they either believe them to be unconstitutional or bad policy.
The Constitution is quite clear as to the duty of the President in respect to his approval or disapproval of legislation passed by Congress.
“Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.” (Art. 1, Sec. 7, Para. 2)
A primary responsibility of the President is to defend the Constitution. When a President signs a bill he believes to be unconstitutional or contains amendments that are unconstitutional, he is not fulfilling that responsibility. The same is true if he allows the bill to become law by neglecting to sign it for a period of ten days. If a Signing Statement by the President indicates that he believes any part of the bill to be unconstitutional or that certain requirements of the bill are bad policy, therefore he does not intend to enforce those he disagrees with, he is confessing to an intention to commit an impeachable act. Article II, Section 3 requires of the President that … “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”.
A bedrock principle of a constitutional republic is that all laws apply equally to everyone, not just the peons in the general public. If the President believes any part of a law to be unconstitutional, it is his responsibility to return it to Congress along with his clearly stated reasons why he believes it to be unconstitutional. Once a law is signed by the President it becomes the law of the land until it is either repealed by Congress or declared unconstitutional by a court. The President does not have the prerogative of deciding which laws he will or will not enforce. If Congress overrides the veto of an unconstitutional bill, the members of Congress who voted to override it should be noted by the voters and turned out of office in the next election. These same principles apply to many Executive Orders as well.
The power of the President to issue “executive orders” is an implied power common to all executives in or out of government. Just as executive orders in the private sector apply only to those employees under the supervision of that executive, executive orders issued by the President are binding only on the employees of the Executive Branch of government. They are not legally binding on the Legislative or Judicial Branches. Neither are they binding on employees of state and local governments or on the public at large. To consider them so is a violation of the constitutional doctrine of “separation of powers”.
Any executive order enforced on the general population by the police powers of the state becomes a despotic decree and should not be tolerated in a constitutional republic. The first sentence of the body of the Constitution clearly states that,
“All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” (Art. I, Sec. 1)
Several of the Republican candidates have expressed their intent to issue executive orders — if elected — nullifying all or portions of laws already on the books. While this may sound good as a campaign promise and is well received by many conservatives; for the reasons stated above, it should be disturbing to all constitutional conservatives and possibly a dis-qualifier in the primary elections.
The unconstitutional use of recess appointments, signing statements and executives orders by Presidents are violations of the Constitution and of their oath of office. In fact, they are serious enough to be considered as impeachable offenses. More on this later.