Mona Charen had a characteristically great column Tuesday about President Obama’s illegal welfare policy. The president purports to be unbound by federal welfare law, which imposes work requirements on welfare recipients. The Washington Timesreports that “such activities as motivational reading, housework, weight loss, and journaling” will now qualify for exemption from work requirements.
There is nothing new about this sort of thing. As Mona points out, “It’s old news that Obama has contempt for the rule of law. He’s declined to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ on many subjects: immigration, the Defense of Marriage Act, labor laws, and environmental rules, among others.”
To take yet another example, Congressman Steve King of Iowa observes that Obama has serially flouted the federal law that requires the president to submit a plan to address Medicare’s fiscal health if, as long ago happened, the program’s trustee issues an insolvency warning. The president does not even deem himself obliged to follow the health-care law he famously championed, imperiously issuing numerous “waivers” to excuse non-compliance. He asserts executive privilege frivolously to stonewall Congress’s investigation of his Justice Department’s Fast and Furious program. In addition, he flouts the Constitution’s requirement that Congress actually be in recess before a president can make recess appointments.
I could go on, but you get the point. Now, the Constitution provides Congress with powers to rein in a lawless president. Congress can cut off funding to the executive branch. It can impeach if the lawlessness is serious enough.
The current Congress, however, has partisan Democrats running the Senate. They just encourage Obama’s skirting of the law because they agree with his policies. The House, on the other hand, is run by Republicans, but they are afraid to use their “power of the purse” to pressure the White House into lawful behavior. The Constitution requires all revenue bills to originate in the House, a requirement the House has traditionally construed to extend to all spending bills. Republican leadership would have you believe that out-of-control government spending is on autopilot. GOP leaders want you to think that, when an executive agency like the Justice Department goes rogue, they are simply powerless to start slashing its budget. But the spending and the taxes necessary to support executive malfeasance can happen only with the House’s complicity. Lawmakers have the power to stop this stuff, they just lack the will.
In short, President Obama has sized up Capitol Hill and knows full well that he is not going to be reined in. The welfare-law “waivers” are only the latest result. Unless you are dealing with a person who feels a moral obligation to conduct himself lawfully, the rule of law obtains only when it is demonstrated that lawlessness will not be tolerated. That is not the case here.
This is worth considering for a wide variety of reasons. The one I want to focus on at the moment is the jail in Thomson, Ill.
You may recall Thomson as a white-elephant state prison outside Chicago. Democrats in Obama’s home state spent a king’s ransom on it even though it was patently not needed. It is thus a virtually empty “state of the art” prison. That should surprise no one, since influential Illinois voices — such as community-organizer-turned-politician Barack Obama and terrorist-turned-academic Bill Ayers — have spent much of their time arguing that felons should not be sent to prison, anyway.