Weekly Column by Sen. Alexander: “Obama Administration Shows Disregard for Checks and Balances”

Posted on February 3, 2012

Last week the Republican Senators spent a day at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, which is now an estate and museum open to the public about 30 minutes from Washington, D.C.

It is a beautiful, historic setting. As you tour the grounds, you can imagine what life must have been like for our nation’s first president.

On our visit to Mount Vernon, I was reminded that our nation’s revolution was a revolution against a king. George Washington, as commander in chief of the Continental Army, led a fight for independence from a king whom the signers of the Declaration of Independence stated, had a "history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."

As President of the Philadelphia Convention, George Washington presided over the writing of the U.S. Constitution which emphasizes the idea of "liberty" in creating the system of government we enjoy today.

I was reminded also of Washington’s modesty and restraint. It was he who first asked to be called simply Mr. President, rather than some grand title. It was he who first stepped down after two terms.

I am struck by the different attitude I see in the administration of President Obama, which has shown disregard for those checks and balances and the limits on presidential power that our founders and George Washington felt were so important.

This president's excesses were first illustrated by the creation of more White House czars than the Romanovs had. We have always had some czars in the White House but now we have approximately three dozen of them, duplicating and diluting the responsibilities of cabinet members.

Equally disturbing to me has been this administration's use of regulation and litigation to bypass the will of the people and their elected representatives in Congress, as was the case when the National Labor Relations Board sought to prevent Boeing from opening a factory in South Carolina.

The president has taken to saying in his campaign speeches and his State of the Union Address the other day, "If Congress won't act, I will," and he has begun to show that is no idle threat.

Because now, President Obama has broken the precedent set by all Presidents before him and made four “recess” appointments while the Senate was in a recess period of less than three days, bypassing Senate confirmation with his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to head a new and unaccountable agency,.

These recess appointments show disregard for possibly the best-known and most important role of the Senate and that is its power of advice and consent of executive and judicial nominations as outlined in article two, section two of the Constitution.

While the exact length required for a recess is not defined in the Constitution, it is clear that President Obama’s actions are outside the history and precedent of the Constitution. Both parties have relied upon the adjournment clause in article one of the Constitution to argue that the absolute minimum recess period would conceivably be three days.  Even President Obama’s own attorneys made that argument before the Supreme Court.

Liberty is the defining aspect of the American character. If the president's current actions were to stand as a precedent, the Senate may very well find that when it takes a break for lunch, when it comes back, the country has a new Supreme Court Justice.

Because we believe in the importance of that constitutional system, all of us on the Republican side insist on a full and complete debate on this issue. We intend to take this issue to the American people. We will file amicus curiae briefs in all of the appropriate courts and we will take this issue to the most important court in the land and that is the court of the American people on Election Day.

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