separation of powers

The Road to Dictatorship

Another great piece by guest contributor Publius Ithacanus:

The Road to Dictatorship
When the founders drafted the Constitution, they carefully separated legislative and executive power.  As we probably learned in middle and high school, Congress passes laws, the President executes them, and the Supreme Court interprets them.  Presidents may not enact laws and they haven’t deeply encroached on Congress’ prerogatives --- until this President, who, unable to get his will, seems to know no restraint.
Several times the President has admitted publicly that the “Dream Act” (proposal that would effectively amnesty certain illegal aliens in the U.S. and undercut existing U.S. immigration law) was beyond presidential power and required Congressional action.  Yet, a few days ago, this same President did what he previously said he could not do, enacting the Dream Act by executive order, and for political gain.  Nothing else has changed, what he could not constitutionally do then, he cannot constitutionally do now.  This knowingly unconstitutional act is a violation of his inauguration oath to faithfully execute the laws and to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution.  It takes the executive order to the status of law by decree.
This is not the first time this President has done “workarounds” to avoid a Congress that will not give him what he wants.  Several members of the National Labor Relations Board purport to sit by virtue of “recess appointments,” appointments made when Congress carefully arranged not to be and was not actually in recess (this is being contested in court).  Executive orders are intended to be used to carry out Congressional policies and internal executive branch functions.  They are not to rise to the level of new legislation or nullification of existing law by “Presidential Decree.”
Prior democracies died by this process.  One of the major defects of the Great Depression-era Weimar Republic in Germany was the ability of its government to rule by decree, bypassing parliament.  Dictators resort to rule by decree; presidents who issue legislative decrees unchecked are dictators.
Moreover, the President’s action in legislating by executive order has set a very bad precedent, one he and his party may come to regret.  For once a president asserts such authority, his successors, of the other party, may assert them as well.  What value then of the outrage of the party offended, who began the process and set the very precedent?
Americans should be outraged at the expansions of presidential power they are now seeing.  In the past, there has been talk of an “imperial presidency.”  The Roman Republic gave way to Roman Emperors and a loss of freedom to an absolute ruler.  This President is taking us down the same track.  Arm our presidents with the power of executive order carried to legislative enactment and we might as well send Congress home.  Congress will either confirm the President’s wishes or be bypassed.  Either way they will become useless and the founder’s separation of powers destroyed.

Checks nix

Constitutional concerns...fancy that. At the Times-Union:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is defending language in his proposed budget that has been criticized by legislators, saying it will allow him to consolidate "back-office" functions across state agencies.
The governor suggested his critics, including top legislators, were simply seeking to keep the status quo. His proposal would allow budgeters on his staff to move money among agencies outside the state's normal budget process.
"The Legislature has one role, the executive has another role. I'm trying to manage this government. I'm trying to find efficiency," Cuomo said Tuesday. "How can I manage if I have to tell you in advance every dollar — (lawmakers) aren't even here half the time. That is a normal and usual tension, and you manage the tension."
"It sounds ominous, but this is an essential management alignment of back-office overhead," he continued...
...Some legislators remain leery of Cuomo's actions, which they said are an intrusion on their constitutionally prescribed role.
...At the Cabinet meeting, Cuomo indicated some willingness to negotiate, as part of what he described as "healthy tension" between himself and legislators. But the relevant language is written into bills that legislators cannot easily change.
There's a reason for separation of powers and checks and balances.  Being wary of creating a dictatorship in Albany, however benevolent it might appear at the moment, is just prudent.
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