Today I watched President Obama’s Climate Change speech (and live tweeted via @sodakliberty). Overall the speech is exactly what I expected: The President feels that anyone not on his side is part of the flat-earth society. One portion of the speech many were looking forward to was his remarks on Keystone XL. I don’t think anyone was happy with his non-answer. He said very little about the Keystone XL project.
Here is the meat of what Obama had to say on Keystone:
Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.
Both sides of the Keystone project have been wondering what the Obama administration will do. This non-answer from the President means both sides have act as if they will be blind-sided by the Obama administration in the future. Notice how the President actually failed to say how much carbon emission would be considered “good enough” for the Keystone XL project to go ahead. He left his statement on KXL vague enough to decide at any time if the project should or shouldn’t go ahead. This non-stance is likely going to cause a lot of backlash towards the White House from all sides of the issue.
Other than the Keystone XL non-stance there was very little of surprise in the speech. Here are some highlights (or low-lights if you will) I took away from this speech:
- President Obama believes higher food prices are caused by climate change. I guess he forgot that federal regulations and subsidies are artificially inflating food prices on many goods.
- President Obama wants to use less “dirty energy”. Every time he said “dirty energy” I pictured Beula Balbricker from the Porky’s movies saying “you filthy little pervert!”
- President Obama has no clue that the EPA has lost almost as much credibility as he has.
- President Obama acknowledges good steps taken by States and cities to enact sensible climate policy. However he still feels it must all be controlled by bureaucrats in DC.
- President Obama says there is “a fundamental lack of faith in American business and ingenuity.” Maybe he should hold up a mirror when making such statements.
- The President gave a hat-tip to Walmart? Are Democrats allowed to talk nicely about the evil Walmart?
- President Obama proudly stated the US is drilling more oil now than it ever has.
- While asking Congress to stop subsidising big oil companies Obama started to laugh.
- President Obama stated the federal government will continue to consume less energy. I have a solution for that Mr Obama: Reduce the overall size of government and you will reduce the energy used by the government.
- Towards the end of the speech Obama said he wants to “partner with the private sector” for solutions. Too bad his idea of “partnership” means regulations.
- And finally, Obama wants to stop developing countries from dirty development. He apparently thinks it is the job of the US to act as a stern parent towards these countries?
Overall I don’t think anyone would have come out of this speech feeling happy (unless they are a blind follower of Obama). There was too much about the Presidents speech that left people on all sides of the climate change debate wondering where the executive branch actually falls. My guess is his climate change plan will be used to create random and haphazard regulations to further depress the economy. Perhaps this is the “change” he promised during his campaign to be elected.
Today is the federal holiday currently referred to as Presidents Day (it is actually still called Washington’s Birthday as a federal holiday). I find it odd that we provide a national holiday to celebrate the chief elected official of the federal executive branch. Actually I find it more than odd, I find it almost un-American to celebrate a position that has gone so far beyond its constitutional limits.
Ivan Eland (author of RECARVING RUSHMORE: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty) posted a good summary of the shift away from constitutional controls of the executive branch:
Virtually ignored are the shifts in power that are transforming the executive branch into a governing branch:
- Two major functions of the Congress—in approving U.S. military action and determining the federal budget—have been eroded over time.
- Since the Korean War in the early 1950s, Congress has willingly abdicated its historical constitutional role of declaring war. As a result, the president now routinely takes the country to war without the constitutionally required congressional approval.
- With the rise of a unified yearly budget for the executive branch, beginning in the 1920s, Congress began merely altering the massive document only at the margins.
- Big government in the United States is really executive government.
It will be difficult to stuff such unconstitutional executive power back into the bottle; but for the sake of the continuation of governance under a republic, it is vital.
To this I would add the almost cult-like status the Presidency has attained. Here are just a few observations I’ve made of the current administration from the last month:
- Even though the President may entertain having a drink with members of Congress, he sees no reason to actually work with them.
- President Obama signed “executive actions” to bypass the legislative process because he feels his opinion of gun control should be the “law”.
- Back in January the White House asked citizens to pledge allegiance to them (and not the United States).
- Also back in January I noted that the President does not like balance of power with Congress.
Do we really want to keep a federal holiday for a position that continuously decides to ignore constitutional limits? Somehow there has been a shift from the President being an employee of the people to the President being an almost king-like figure to rule the people. This is not only Democrat Presidents that get this special treatment. All that changed when we went from Bush II to Obama was a different name and face; the mainstream media and party members for both Presidents have blindly followed unconstitutional acts.
If Congress does not start taking power back from the President we may soon find the United States losing any freedoms protected in the original Republic. Instead the United States will head the direction of another failed big government undertaking: the USSR.
This has been an interesting week for use of Executive power in relation to committee assignments. In one case we a Democrat President that decided to go beyond the powers of the executive office and appoint committee members without working with the Legislative Branch. In another case here in South Dakota, we have a Republican Governor that decided he was not going to carry out legislation passed by the South Dakota Legislature. Both cases are similar because the involve the Executive Branch ignoring balance of power.
First lets look at President Obama’s power reach. Trevor Burros provides a good summary of the Presidents transgression:
Slightly over a year ago, on January 4, 2012, President Obama appointed four people to high-level offices without the constitutionally required “advice and consent” of the Senate. Three of those appointees were placed on the NLRB, and the other was Richard Cordray, chosen to direct the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the “consumer watchdog” agency created by Dodd-Frank.
The appointments were one of the most significant power grabs by a president in recent memory. The Constitution requires that certain “officers of the United States,” a category which indisputably includes NLRB board members and the director of the CFPB, be appointed by the president with the “advice and consent of the Senate.” Like many constitutional provisions, this is a “checks and balances” requirement that helps ensure the president does not unilaterally control the executive branch for his own purposes.
Under normal circumstances the President can only make such appointments while the Senate is in recess. Many previous presidents have use intra-session recesses to invoke their emergency appointment power. This case with Obama is unique because it was not done during an actual recess. Back during the Bush years Senator Reid enacted “pro forma” sessions during intra-session recesses. These pro forma sessions legally blocked the President from unilaterally enacting their emergency appointment power. It is during one of these sessions that President Obama decided to ignore balance of power and the law.
The judge that ruled (PDF) against the Obama administration had this to say:
The Constitution’s separation of powers features, of which the Appointments Clause is one, do not simply protect one branch from another. These structural provisions serve to protect the people, for it is ultimately the people’s rights that suffer when one branch encroaches on another.
Notice how the ruling says this is not only an attack on another branch of the government; it is also an attack on the people’s rights.
Going back to South Dakota there is a similar situation, with a twist. In 2009 the South Dakota Legislature passed and Governor Rounds signed House Bill 1239: An act to create the South Dakota Boxing Commission and to provide for the supervision of boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts competitions and sparring exhibitions in the state. Section 1 of this law required the Governor to appoint five members to a newly created South Dakota Boxing Commission.
Section 8 of the bill provided a sunset of July 1, 2012. This sunset provided three years for the commission to be setup. Since the commission would be self-sustaining through fees collected per Section 2 of the bill, it should not have needed to be enacted permanently. Unfortunately Governor Rounds decided he did not like this law so he chose to ignore what was legally required of him. When it came time for Governor Daugaard to comply with this law he also chose to ignore his duties set forth by the South Dakota Legislature.
Just like his counter-part in the White House, the Governor of South Dakota has decided his office is above balance of power. Governor Daugaard’s failure to comply with this statute is a direct snub at the South Dakota Legislature. Since South Dakota has a legislative session that lasts only two months the Governors office is highly relied upon to execute the statutes set forth. Does that mean South Dakota is giving too much power and trust towards the Governors Office? Maybe we are, and the legislature is doing something about it. The South Dakota Senate has brought this bill forth again as Senate Bill 84.
This bill differs from the 2009 version in one noticeable way. Only one of the commissioners is to be appointed by the Governor. Two will be appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate and two appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives. So how did the Governor feel about this change. Let’s look at his words from yesterday:
I would be very happy if the Legislature would amend that legislation to give themselves complete authority to appoint that commission
It isn’t hard to imagine the Governor failing to appoint that one member as required by law. As I noted before, South Dakota has a very short legislative session that lasts about two months. It is critical that the Executive Branch can be trusted to handle committee appointments in a lawful manner. By choosing not perform his duty under law the Governor has shown contempt for both the South Dakota Legislature and citizens of South Dakota.
As I conclude this post its hard to see the above situations as anything but different symptoms of the same problem: the Executive Branch has no respect for the balance of power. By choosing to illegally make appointments President Obama has decided he is beyond the control of the United States Senate. Likewise by failing to make committee appointments Governor Daugaard has decided he is beyond the control of the South Dakota Legislature. Perhaps now it is time for state and federal legislative bodies to start reviewing the balance power between branches and bring it back into alignment.