Although we are all aware of President Obama’s executive order on immigration, he is using his power – incorrectly, I believe – to fundamentally transform the United States of America in other ways, too.
Newt Gingrich writes:
For an administration that is in many areas the most incompetently managed in recent history, the Obama White House has been stunningly effective at one thing: using the bureaucracy to impose its political priorities, regardless of public opinion or Congressional approval.
In November the President announced a major revision of immigration policy without Congress’s approval. The Department of Homeland Security has begun hiring, illegally, more than 1,000 new bureaucrats to process applications for a waiver program that suspends immigration law for more than five million people.
Americans recognize the fundamental challenge these “executive actions” pose to the Constitutional balance of power. A large majority–68 percent, according to a recent Fox News poll–worry that “Obama’s use of executive orders and unilateral actions may be ‘permanently altering’ our country’s system of checks and balances.”
The immigration actions were only the most brazen of the legal contortions the Obama administration has performed to impose its preferred outcomes by bureaucratic overreach.
When the President reached an agreement with China to cut U.S. carbon emissions dramatically (a target that would require major domestic policy changes), he announced he has no plan to submit the agreement to Congress. Instead, the administration justifies rewriting environmental regulations by citing the official-sounding “Climate Action Plan,” which, like the immigration policy, is nothing more than a presidential speech.
President Obama nullified the 1996 welfare reform law’s work requirement by announcing HHS will grant waivers to states that don’t want to enforce it–waivers which the law gives the President no authority to grant and states no authority to implement.
The administration paid $178 billion to insurance companies to compensate them for higher-than-expected costs under Obamacare. As the House of Representatives’ lawsuit against the President points out, the law does not, in fact, give the administration the authority to transfer that money. But the bureaucrats did it anyway.
Perhaps the administration’s most ingenious maneuver–and among the most dangerous precedents–has been “Operation Choke Point,” in which officials at the Justice Department, FDIC and CFPB collaborate in an effort to put law-abiding American companies out of business.
They do so by pressuring banks and payment processors to deny service to entire categories of perfectly legal businesses–effectively crippling those industries’ ability to function. A 2011 document from the FDIC names 30 industries of focus, including “ammunition sales,” “firearms sales,” “pay day loans,” “coin dealers,” “online gambling,” “tobacco sales,” “racist materials,” “pornography,” and “telemarketing,” among others. Banks have been telling legal businesses in these industries that they can no longer serve them because federal regulators have threatened to hold banks liable for the businesses’ activities.
A report published last month by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found that in many cases, regulators targeted these legal industries out of “personal animus,” and “effectively ordered banks to terminate all relationships” with an industry that senior officials said in emails they “literally cannot stand.”
The United States Consumer Coalition, which advocates for consumer freedom to choose, published audio recordings this month from Mike Schuetz, who sells guns and ammunition in Wisconsin. Schuetz recorded employees of his credit union explaining to him how federal regulators had encouraged the credit union to terminate his account.
As Breitbart reports:
“Examiners…came in and looked at our accounts…looked at our books,” one official of Heritage Credit Union is heard telling Schuetz on one of the tapes. “Here’s some accounts that we feel that we’re going to regulate you on…and kinda put the screws to us as far as what we could and couldn’t do. The regulatory and compliance issues that we said earlier are true. We never used to have to do that stuff…and our hands are tied by it.”
Other audio recordings are equally chilling. “You wouldn’t believe the regulations we have and when they came in and nailed us on that [accounts] there were about a dozen of them crawling around the building,” a Heritage Credit Union official is heard on the tapes telling Schuetz.
This is a sign of an administration that has figured out how to do whatever it wants, whether Congress approves or not.
Thankfully, Congressman Sean Duffy, who chairs the Oversight subcommittee the House Financial Services Committee, has announced he is committed to holding hearings on Choke Point in the new Congress.
They are urgently needed. On every front, the Obama administration is pushing the limits of its authority, enforcing change by bureaucratic overreach.
These are dangerous precedents, extending executive power in ways difficult to reverse, at the expense of Congress’s constitutional authority. The 68 percent of Americans who worry that the President is permanently altering the balance of power are right to be concerned, and their representatives should be, too. The new Congress has a mandate to reclaim its rightful authorities from an executive branch that is out of control. It should take the opportunity.