In listening to the three remaining presidential candidates Trump, Sanders and Clinton, one would think that each actually has the power to do what he/she says will be done. Trump will nullify and replace Obamacare, build a wall along our southern border stopping illegal immigration that Mexico will pay for, send back the 11 million that already illegally crossed, end Common Core and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ban most foreign Muslims from entering the U.S., open to surveil mosques in the U.S., create a database of Syrian refugees, bomb ISIS, target and kill the relatives of terrorists, shut down parts of the Internet to prevent ISIS recruitment, reintroduce torture (waterboarding) to extract intelligence, to name a few.
Bernie Sanders also has his “pie in the sky” promises notably free tuition at public universities, universal health care coverage, legislation to change the climate, and he opposes trade deals that take advantage of the poor labor of other counties. He would end income inequality, establishing a $15 minimum wage, and close the gender pay gap. He advocates investing a trillion dollars over five years to rebuild our infrastructure, and will drastically reform the campaign finance system. He calls the free market a “rigged economy.” At least he is honest in labeling his proposals a “political revolution.” “Today … we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally,” said Sanders.
Hillary Clinton has vowed to continue the Barack Obama agenda. She speaks of a more inclusive society; early childhood education and child-care accessibility, and higher education reform, student debt relief, universal automatic voter registration. She also will focus on substance abuse, and mental health issues, campaign finance reform, breaking down barriers of race, gender, and sexual orientation in America. She promises to break-up banks “if they deserve it,” work to end racism, sexism and discrimination against the LGBT community and welcome immigrants overnight.
The list for each is long and candidates add to it on a whim. Unfortunately most, if not all, of these things the president has no constitutional power to implement. His powers are listed in Article II of the Constitution and have not been expanded by way of amendment as required in Article V of that document, thus they are totally unconstitutional for the president to do without congressional, and some times state, approval. Some few may be constitutionally forbidden even with permission of the legislative branch.
Presidents, in their thirst for power and /or proclaimed expediency, have empowered themselves to the point of “kingship” with their worshipful, unchallenging, party followers (whether democrat or republican) quite willing to look the other way as government grows beyond its ability to be constitutional or efficient. At any time a president could remind the people of his real constitutional powers but he will not as that would drastically reduce his perceived power that is beginning to look limitless.
Under Article II of the Constitution the president has but eleven powers. Let us identify them: 1) “Commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States” including the militia when called into actual service of the United States; 2) supervise departments (cabinet), each presumably established by the Congress (George Washington had but four); 3) grant reprieves and pardons; 4) make treaties with the help of the Senate; 5) with Senate help appoint positions established by law such as ambassadors, ministers and judges; 6) fill vacancies “during recess of the Senate;” 7) make recommendations to Congress on the state of the union; 8) convene both houses on special occasions and handle disputes with respect to convening; 9) receive ambassadors and other public ministers; 10) make certain that “laws be faithfully executed;” and 11) “commission all the officers of the United States.”
Simply stated the president has two supervisory powers over existing organizations and two shared powers with the Senate, otherwise he pardons, recommends, appoints and entertains. That is it! Notice the absence of power to make any rules and regulations on us. This is the job of Congress alone.
Thus a prospective president sets his constituency up with unrealistic expectations and eventual disillusionment. When unable to implement promised changes he quickly becomes unpopular as has happened to his predecessors. Since he has NO law making powers he must persuade Congress to agree to his proposed changes. When they do not, as in the case of Barack Obama, he is tempted to make law himself to keep face with his promises and constituency. The practice is a most serious violation of the Constitution and is impeachable. In the case of Obama, Congress is afraid to pursue the blatant offense to the Constitution. Unchallenged it opens the door for future power grabbing presidents to do the same and the president replaces Congress as the major law making branch of government. All three of the remaining presidential candidates will resort to executive orders rather than disillusion their expecting followers.
The term executive order, used by presidents to make law, is not found in the Constitution. Executive orders were initially nothing more than inter-departmental communications between the President and his executive branch with him requesting some action on their part. Constitutionally they have no law making function. Congress must reign-in any executive that uses them to make or alter law. Article I, Section I gives only Congress law making power. Impeachment is a proper response for any president who subverts or threatens the separation of powers doctrine, as his oath requires that he “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” I advocated such for the last two presidents and will do so again whichever party, or whomever candidate, does so.
To read more of Dr. Harold Pease’s weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.