Usurpation of Power

Usurpation of Power

© David Burton 2013

Ignoring the Constituion

     The people of America in the late 18th century rebelled against the king of England usurping the powers of the British Parliament and what they considered to be their rights under British law. Today, in the 21st century, the leader of this country is perpetrating the same violations of our basic rights which are guaranteed to us by our Constitution. President Obama is violating the Constitution by arbitrarily deciding which laws enacted by Congress to enforce and which to ignore.

     “Everyone should know from their high-school government classes that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress exclusive power to make federal laws, and Article II of the Constitution gives the American president the executive power to administer and enforce those laws. Article II then includes the language about how the president must faithfully execute those laws.
     “Among other things, the Take Care Clause was inserted in the Constitution to abolish the Royal Prerogative that the Framers of the American Constitution knew from their lives as Englishmen. It was the power of the king of England to disregard or effectively suspend Acts of Parliament. The king could not make laws, but he could shelve a law that Parliament had passed.” (Ref. 1)

     President Obama’s claim that he has the authority to ignore portions of legislation enacted into law is a frightening claim of a sweeping power that is completely inconsistent with the Constitution. A president has “prosecutorial discretion” to prioritize which lawbreakers to prosecute in federal court, but there is no “enforcement discretion” to determine which laws on the books he will enforce.

     Most recently, when it became clear that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, as it is commonly known, could not be implemented as written, President Obama unilaterally decided not to enforce the provisions of the law. This amounts to selective non-enforcement of a law enacted by Congress and even signed into law by the president himself. President Obama had previously rejected a Republican proposal to delay implementation of Obamacare for a year, which could have been done within the rules established by our Constitution by having Congress amend the law and then having the president sign the amendment. Instead, he abrogated the power of Congress, a right never granted to the Executive Branch by the Constitution!

     The American Constitution is clear in its separation of powers. Congress makes the laws and the President administers, enforces and executes the laws. The Constitution nowhere gives the president the right to ignore a law enacted by Congress.

     “To contend that the obligation imposed on the president to see the laws faithfully executed implies a power to forbid their execution is a novel construction of the constitution, and is entirely inadmissible. - U.S. Supreme Court, 1838

     “But even before he decreed alterations of key ACA provisions – delaying enforcement of certain requirements for health insurance and enforcement of employers’ coverage obligations – {President Obama} had effectively altered congressionally mandated policy by altering work requirements of the 1996 welfare reform; and compliance requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law; and some enforcement concerning marijuana possession; and the prosecution of drug crimes entailing mandatory minimum sentences; and the enforcement of immigration laws pertaining to some young people. [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 2)

     In taking these actions, President Obama has arguably violated the Constitution of the United States. “The Constitution’s ‘text, history, and normative underpinnings’ do not justify the permissive reading Obama gives to the Take Care Clause, which says the president ‘shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ {Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution}.
     “It is . . . part of America’s ‘deeply rooted constitutional tradition’ that ‘presidents, unlike English kings, lack authority to suspend statutes’ or make them inapplicable to certain individuals or groups. Indeed, the Take Care Clause may have been intended to codify the Framers repudiation of royal suspending prerogatives. Hence the absence of an anti-suspension provision in the Bill of Rights.” (Ref. 2)

     Allowing a president to decide which laws or portions of laws enacted by Congress he will enforce or ignore is fraught with inordinate danger. “If President Obama may postpone enforcement of the ACA’s insurance requirements and employer mandate, could a subsequent president ignore the Affordable Care Act altogether?
     “In 1998, the Supreme Court held that ‘there is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes.’ But by claiming a power to revise laws through suspension of portions of them, Obama is exercising . . . a ‘second veto.’” (Ref. 2)

     Is the President breaking the laws of the United States? Perhaps. What may be more obvious is the fact that the President’s administration urged private companies to break the law when the Health and Human Services secretary “announced that she was ‘urging’ insurers to ignore both their contracts and the law and simply cover people on the honor system – as if they were enrolled and paid up. . . . Of course, urging isn’t enforcing. But . . . the difference is subtle. . . . HHS announced it will consider compliance with its suggestions when determining which plans to allow on the exchange next year. [Emphasis mine] A request from HHS is like being asked a ‘favor’ by the Godfather. Compliance is less than voluntary.” ( Ref. 3)

     Congress may be finally waking up to the fact that many of the President’s actions may be unconstitutional, illegal and a gross usurpation of Congress’s authority as guaranteed by the Constitution. In late 2013, the House Judiciary Committee decided to look into “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws” and determine just how much latitude the nation’s chief executive has to ignore laws passed by Congress. Members of Congress have accused the President of circumventing the nation’s laws with which he disagrees. The hearings were to focus on Obamacare and on Obama’s alleged “decision to ignore enforcement of our immigration and federal drug laws.”

     “President Obama has blatantly disregarded the Constitution’s mandate to faithfully execute the laws,” said the Judiciary Committee Chairman, “He has changed key provisions in Obamacare without congressional approval, failed to enforce our immigration and drug laws, and ignored his constitutional duties for the sake of politics. It is apparent that the president’s vested interest is not in the protected liberties of the American people, but in the advancement of his own agenda and interests.” (Ref. 4)

     The questions that needs to be asked and answered is: “Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws or by disregarding his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”? In reality, the answer to this question exists, it’s: “There is no such authority!” The president’s duty to uphold the Constitution does not lapse simply when a president decides Washington’s “political environment” is not “normal.” Despite President Obama’s claim to the contrary, the Constitution is not suspended when a president decides the “environment” is abnormal. In addition, the Constitution does not confer on presidents the power to rewrite laws if they decide the change is a “tweak” not involving the law’s “essence.”[Ref. 5]

     In summary, President Obama and his administration would appear to be violating the Constitution of the United States, standing in contempt of the rulings of the United States Supreme Court and usurping the constitutionally granted powers of the Congress of the United States. We fought the American Revolution because of similar actions taken by an English potentate.


  1. Obama takes presidential discretion to extremes, George F. Will, Boston Herald, Page 23, 19 December 2013.
  2. Health insurers lack a backbone, Jonah Goldberg, Boston Herald, Page 23, 19 December 2013.
  3. Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s, Geoge F. Will, The Washington Post, 14 August 2013.
  4. House Judiciary Sets Hearings On Obama Acting Unconstitutionally, Laura Matthews, International Business Times, 3 December 2013.


  27 December 2013 {Article 189; Govt_51}    
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