President Obama has finally announced the expected executive order to grant legal status to five million aliens illegally residing in the U.S. The order is an obvious violation of Article I of the Constitution: “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.” Many of the president’s actions, including this executive order, are encroachments on the legislative powers reserved for Congress. Conservatives have been debating for months what to do about this: impeach the president; sue the president and rely on federal courts to enforce the Constitution; or try to defund parts of the government that would be responsible for implementing the order.
Impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate would bring about justice, and is long overdue for our scofflaw president. There are probably easily enough votes in the House to impeach; but there is no chance at all that the required two thirds of the Senate, even after the newly elected members take office, would vote to convict the president. I’m not sure that all Republican senators would vote to convict, let alone any Democrats. The Democrat senators wouldn’t convict a politician of their party if he were captured on video strangling his wife. Consequently, I think impeachment would be a lost cause; would distract Congress from more useful strategies; and would even attract sympathy for the poor, persecuted president.
The lawsuit that the House has already filed objecting to the president’s unilaterally changing the Obamacare law passed by Congress could be extended to cover the immigration amnesty executive order. Any federal judge who sided with the president on this would himself be guilty of ignoring the Constitution and his oath to support it. But the record of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, is not encouraging when it comes to correctly interpreting and enforcing the Constitution. The lawsuit approach is worth pursuing, but it would be negligent to put all of our eggs in that basket.
Some members of Congress are talking about repealing or amending the various legislation on which the administration claims its amnesty order is based. Bills to do so could certainly make it through next year’s House and Senate, but Conservatives are far from having a veto-proof majority, and such bills obviously have no chance of being signed.
The other approach being discussed is to withhold funding for any government agencies that would be involved in implementing the amnesty order. Again, a continuing resolution or budget bill that denied the president any of his desires would be vetoed, triggering the dreaded “government shutdown,” in which only the highest profile government functions would be curtailed: access to national parks and monuments, processing of Social Security checks, and the like; just like the last time. Obama’s sycophant news media can be relied upon to put the responsibility for any resulting hardship on Congress, not on the president who would have vetoed the funding bill.
So how can we fund the necessary functions of government without giving the president (any president, not just Obama) total control of the budget? The key is to abandon the practice of using omnibus spending bills. I would start with the most important purpose of government (defense) and pass a bill to fund just that. Then I would go down the list of functions in priority order and pass bills to fund those functions. Sooner or later we would get to the point where we are debating the need for certain funding, and some bills would fail to pass, or would contain spending cuts. Maybe we could even start to approach a balanced budget. If the president failed to sign one or more of these bills, he would be on record as not supporting that function of government. It would be much harder for the administration and news media to spin a veto of the defense funding bill as some kind of failure of Congress.
I think the Conservatives in Congress should roll over and pass the continuing resolution to fund the government at current levels until one week after the new members are seated. They should use the time between now and then to agree on priorities for funding, starting with defense and working their way down. Then they should start drafting the spending bills so they are ready to pass them in the first week of the new Congressional session. Any obstructionism on the part of the president or Democrats in Congress would be hard to blame on Conservatives.