A series of federal regulatory measures has finally woken up the conservative movement to the dangers of Obama’s plan to rule by executive fiat. New regulations from the FCC, EPA, and HHS have tightened the feds’ grip around the internet, health insurance, and the energy industry. Net Neutrality, price fixing, and oversight of carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” — surely the only pollutant necessary for the continuation of life on earth — have forced them to face the reality that Barack Obama plans to force his far-Left agenda on the American people. In typical inside-the-Beltway Republican fashion, they present half-measures and temporary solutions that will leave our Constitution open to continual assault, because they lack the solution understood by everyone from our Founding Fathers to Ronald Reagan.
Obama Begins Government by Regulation and Fiat
Since at least June Barack Obama “has used the threat of EPA regulations to goad lawmakers into action.” Lawmakers bet that he was bluffing. They bet wrong.
Last week, the Obama administration decided to greet the incoming conservative Congress by rolling out the red tape. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced new price controls requiring insurance providers to get the administration’s permission to race rates more than 10 percent. The FCC passed Net Neutrality, although it lacks Congressional authorization to do so. The EPA began regulating power plants and refineries for carbon dioxide emissions, although an EPA spokeswoman admitted, “I can’t tell you what types of reductions we hope to achieve.”
The Obama administration reinstated “end-of-life” counseling for ObamaCare recipients by federal regulation early this month, but it only caught notice this week after the federal onslaught.
These actions brought some conservatives a “moment of clarity.”
“The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem….”
In October, most conservatives were too busy enthusing about the coming midterm elections to notice when the Los Angeles Times reported, “As President Obama remakes his senior staff, he is also shaping a new approach for the second half of his term: to advance his agenda through executive actions he can take on his own, rather than pushing plans through an increasingly hostile Congress.” This author was alone in reporting Obama’s plan to rule by executive order in 2011. In the coming weeks, liberal media outlets and Soros-funded think tanks including The Huffington Post, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Center for American Progress encouraged the president to govern through executive force; CAP even produced a lengthy report containing the precise agenda Obama is to enact. Just last week Politico featured an article by John F. Harris and James Hohmann which concluded, “Republican gains in Congress make it essential for [Obama] to use new avenues of power,” including regulations and executive orders.
Now other conservatives have realized the dangers. The Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog noted that although Democrats tried to make the lame duck session of Congress a last ditch power grab:
Congress was not where the real action was. While the media was distracted by the last breaths of a defeated leftist majority in Congress, it was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that gave true picture of how the Obama Administration will advance their agenda in 2011.
Seton Motley at BigGovernment.com wrote:
Every Commission, every Agency, every Board in the federal pantheon will ratchet up their orders, rules and directives. To impose via executive branch regulatory fiat what President Obama can no longer get done in Congress. In other words, bypass the obviously expressed will of the American people for smaller, more accountable government – so as to continue jamming through his on-all-fronts Titanic Government plan. And do so without the People’s representatives at all involved in the process. [sic.]
In a follow-up on BigGovernment.com yesterday, Robert Allen Bonelli wrote, “the Obama administration is poised to use the regulation-writing process to advance its own agenda regardless of what the American people want. The administration is also acting in open defiance to our form of representative government. “
The not-so-conservative Rep. Fred Upton — the Michigan Republican behind the incandescent light bulb ban — has written a Wall Street Journal op-ed branding the EPA move “an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs.”
Even the mainstream media have owned up to the strategy. The Christian Science Monitor is asking, “‘Death Panels’ Controvery: Is Obama Avoiding Congress?” Meanwhile, the New York Times confessed last Thursday, “The president is studying how to maximize the power of the executive branch, advisers said.”
Finally, the sleeping giant has awakened. After premature partying and futile fantasizing that Obama would spend two years at their mercy, conservatives realized what they actually possess: one-half of their own political party (the leadership of which is hostile to them) and some of the majority seats in one house of Congress. They have work to do in reining in their own party, let alone assuming Obama will defer to their will simply because the overwhelming majority of Americans want him to.
“By Any Means Necessary”
Obama and the progressive “liberals” have followed precisely the outline I laid out more than a month ago:
Look for an aggressive agenda in the lame duck session of Congress, focused especially on passing the DREAM Act and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”…After January, Cabinet agencies will issue regulations at a faster clip. His most visible target will be the EPA’s regulation of carbon dioxide as a “pollutant.”…However, every agency will roll out reams of red tape, a process that has already begun…Stealth amnesty will continue apace…Obama will rule increasingly through executive orders and appeals to the United Nations.
If conservatives now agree on the problem, then to quote Lenin, “what is to be done”?
The Congressional Review Act: A Temporary Solution
Some Republicans in D..C. are serious about Constitutional government. Sen. Jim DeMint, who risked his political capital to support Tea Party candidates across the country has said the Obama administration is “out of control.” He added, “They’re pushing through a lot of bad policy at the executive level. We need to figure out how to rein it in.”
The instrument Republicans have come up with is the Congressional Review Act. Conservatives from the Heritage Foundation, to the Hot Air blog, to the Motley crew over at BigGovernment.com have discovered the 1996 law, which allows a majority vote in Congress to kill federal regulations by issuing a “resolution of disapproval.”
The tactic is one of the few tools Congressional Republicans have at their disposal against runaway executive branch power. However, it is at best an imperfect and temporary solution, even if the entire party were committed to its rigorous application.
It requires a Congressional majority, which even after the midterms Republicans do not have. Democrats still narrowly control the Senate. Republicans may be able to cobble together an ad hoc coalition around the most egregious regulations with vulnerable incumbents up for re-election, or the delegates from coal states, but it seems unlikely vast numbers of Democrats will oppose government regulations in any meaningful way. After all, each of them hope to be running this bureaucracy someday, churning out his own version of federal regs. And no Democrat seems terribly concerned about the constitutional niceties involved in the issue, since the death of Robert Byrd (who only cared when it was politically expedient). The president still has valuable favors and federal projects which he can use as bargaining chips for wavering Democrats. (Just ask Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson.)
Provided a majority could be reached, Barack Obama can simply veto the disapproval. A two-thirds majority is well out of reach for virtually any bill.
If per chance one bureaucratic rule were to be struck down, the feds could pursue the same goal by another avenue. Although the CRA provides a rule struck down “may not be reissued in substantially the same form,” the same goal may be approached through a number of means or proffered rationales.
Should Congressional Republicans somehow get control of the ever-growing Federal Register, Obama still has the power to issue executive orders or insist he is acting in compliance with orders of the United Nations. Even the UN documents the United States has already adopted offer him tremendous lienway.
“Destined to Fail”?
Should the Republicans in both houses somehow overturn every one of these measures over the next two years in addition to their regularly scheduled legislative agenda, the Obama administration has shown it is not above ignoring the law and doing as it pleases.
That is not to say CRA could not provide meaningful victories over outrageous regulations. But it at best a half-measure that will allow many unconstitutional regulations to slip through the cracks.
AllahPundit at HotAir.com downgraded the CRA strategy to a “gesture,” mere “symbolic paces” which he likened to voting for bills that are “destined to fail.” That fails to instill confidence in this as a real solution.
The Conservative Solution, from Washington to Reagan
May I humbly suggest another? Abolish the EPA.
In fact, abolish as many federal agencies as possible and return regulation to the states and municipalities, which are closer to the people. If there were fewer federal Cabinet agencies, there would be fewer dictatorial, top-down federal regulations. This would render the CRA unnecessary. If a regulation were needed at a national level, it would have to show its Constitutional basis and gain the support of a majority of Congressmen. Measures that lacked either would never see the light of day.
Reagan understood, with our Founding Fathers, the dangers of concentrating power in the hands of the federal government, most especially among its unelected elite.
While they are at it, Republicans should abolish America’s Ministry of Culture. Conservatives have rediscovered the joys of axing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the wake of the Juan Williams firing. The National Endowment for the Arts has slipped off the conservative radar since certain former Democrats (or radicals) convinced Republicans to spare the organization, since abolishing it was not “politically feasible.” In light of a $13 trillion national debt and “mandatory spending” exceeds tax revenues, such frivolous, offensive, and unconstitutional discretionary spending is indefensible.
Our liberties will never be secure until Washington is drained of the power to regulate, tax, spend, oversee, compel, or control whole segments of our lives. That is why Thomas Jefferson defined the government envisioned by the Founding Fathers as:
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
As Ronald Reagan left office in 1989, he told the nation:
And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: “As government expands, liberty contracts.”
Twenty years later, we still have to complete the Reagan Revolution.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.