The Useless Legislature Is Useless

James Joyner:

Earlier in the week, I chastised the Attorney General’s selective enforcement of our drug laws, arguing that we should change bad laws through the legislative process, not ignore them. Many readers pushed back using language similar to Obama’s: in essence, since Congressional Republicans are being remarkably uncooperative, the executive should be free to do what it thinks is right, separation of powers be damned.

First, I’m not comfortable with the Executive deciding on its own authority which laws to ignore simply because it’s frustrated with its inability to get the Legislature to go along. Even though I like the result here, it’s a dangerous notion.

Second, the system hasn’t failed in this instance; it hasn’t been engaged. I would be more sanguine if this were a case where the House had approved the change after a national debate and there were 59 votes in the Senate but action was being thwarted by a petulant minority. Unless I’ve missed it, there has been ZERO attempt by this administration to use the system.

Fact is, congress has been releasing power to the executive branch for several decades. They don’t want the responsibility of power, they only want the illusion of power and relevance. This is why when you ask a Tea Party Republican what they want to do in office, they say they want to stop laws from being passed. They don’t want to govern, they want to end governance whether it’s a good form of governance or not.

Instead of congress deliberately giving the executive branch more power, they are doing it out of negligence. They won’t care that Obama has unilaterally changed the ACA by himself because it relieves them of the responsibility of having to change it with a vote. A vote in the House to adjust the ACA, even if it helps businesses transition more smoothly, means the House Republicans would have to acknowledge the ACA is here to stay.

The House Republicans would rather pretend that the ACA is an illegitimate law that needs to be repealed; therefore Obama had no choice, whether he’s right in doing it or not.


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