Gridlock and Executive Power on the Cover of National Review

August 25th, 2014

An adaptation of my article, Gridlock and Executive Power, will grace the cover of the September 8 issue of National Review. The article, behind a $.25 paywall, is available now. Here is the introduction of The Gridlock Clause.

Since 2010, when the Democrats lost their majority in the House and their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, President Obama’s ability to pursue legislative changes has ground to a halt. Headline after headline blares that the “do-nothing Congress” has enacted the fewest laws in decades. But that gridlock hasn’t halted the president’s plans to implement his policies. In fact, he claims it has strengthened his power to act alone — if Congress won’t act, he can, and will.

President Obama routinely cites Congress’s obstinacy to his agenda as a justification for engaging in a series of executive actions that suspend, waive, and even rewrite statutes. His frustration is understandable, but his response is not justifiable. Brazenly maneuvering around the lawmaking function of Congress is an affront to the constitutional order.

There is nothing new about congressional gridlock. It is perhaps worse than ever today, but partisan impasses are not novel. There is also nothing new about presidents’ creatively reinterpreting the law in order to justify executive policies. What is new is the relationship between these two factors — invoking gridlock as a justification for redefining executive authority. This disruptive constitutional philosophy poses a threat to our separation of powers. It establishes a precedent for this and future presidents to permanently blur the lines between the executive and legislative prerogatives.

On the cover, the President is aptly erasing the “Take Care” clause from the Constitution. Indeed.