The Danger of Unilateral Executive Action

Updated 41 weeks ago From a Rep. Nick Rahall Release

In his State of the Union address, the President embraced unilateral Executive action as a means to breaking the legislative gridlock in Washington.  He vowed to act “wherever and whenever” necessary in advancing his economic agenda, and “without legislation.”

 

Such rhetoric raises deep concerns for me.  A President threatening to bypass the elected representatives of the people is misguided and ultimately self-defeating. 

 

That’s not how our Constitutional system works.  The President is the head of one of three coequal branches of government.

 

Any unilateral action by the President must rely on either an explicit Constitutional authority or a statutory delegation of power granted to him from Congress.  If it does not, the Courts are empowered to strike down such actions.

 

A big concern for me, more so than executive orders and memoranda, are agency regulations that circumvent the Congress and the public debate and transparency that is supposed to accompany the legislative process.

 

This Administration is vowing to push ahead with controversial energy regulations that hurt our State’s coal miners.  In too many cases, the Administration has sought to bypass public opposition in our coal communities.  That’s a big problem, and I have worked with both sides of the aisle in trying to resist such harmful regulations.

 

My cosponsorship of legislation, along with my friend and colleague Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, aimed at blocking the EPA from proceeding with new Clean Air Act regulations that would prevent the construction of coal-fired power plants in the future, is just the latest example of my efforts to strengthen Congressional oversight and restrain unilateral executive actions that harm our State’s coal industry.

 

Likewise, when the Administration declines to enforce certain provisions of the law, and attempts to unilaterally rewrite the law to its own liking, that’s a big problem, and something that I have opposed.

 

I have spoken against the Administration’s actions to suspend deportation proceedings for certain illegal aliens.  I said at the time of the action that such a move sets a terrible and dangerous precedent, where the President alone determines which laws will be enforced.

 

And when it comes to the new health care law, I have opposed unilateral actions by the Administration for the same reason – because it weakens the moral authority of the law.

 

For our governmental system to work, the public has to have input into their laws, and that best occurs through the legislative process, where there is a full and transparent debate, and all sides have a chance to make their views known.  The President, acting alone, with his decision-making process known only to him and his closest advisors, simply does not cut it.

 

That said, I think the dysfunction and legislative gridlock that has been fostered by extremists on both sides of the aisle – forcing irresponsible government shutdowns and threats of defaulting on our Nation’s debt – invites an Administration to try to go it alone.

 

The Congress simply cannot ignore its responsibilities and the needs of the people it was elected to serve.  That is why I think the extremists who simply say no to everything, without any constructive ideas for finding and building consensus, are doing incredible damage to our system of government.

 

Congress has some momentum right now in getting things done.  We just passed legislation to fund the government through September – so there will be no government shutdown in the near future.  Also, we passed a Farm Bill to reauthorize agriculture and food programs, as well as nutritional assistance and rural development programs incredibly important to our State. 

 

The water resources infrastructure bill, which I spearheaded, and which strengthens the water transportation network that West Virginia coal exports and jobs depend on, and that funds Army Corps of Engineers, is in conference and hopefully will be enacted later this year.

 

The President would be wise to redouble his efforts to work with Congress and cut out the threats of rule by Executive fiat.

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