Last year, Senator Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do.
When former Vice President Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she scoffed and deployed one of her canned one-liners, “I would just say, ‘Hey, Joe, instead of saying no we can’t, let’s say yes we can!’”
Yes, we can — flippantly blow by the constitutional requirement that new laws be passed by Congress.
Harris was one of the Democratic field’s great enthusiasts for unilateral rule and paid no price for it in the campaign whatsoever. Her presidential bid stalled out for her lack of a message and authenticity, not for her lack of constitutional scruple. In fact, her rejoinder to Biden in the debate got applause, and she now, if the reporting is to be believed, is a finalist to join the Biden ticket.
If Democrats haven’t been scared straight about the perils of an overweening presidency during the Trump years, they never will be. President Donald Trump’s bark has been worse than his bite, but even floating the idea of delaying the election or signing sweeping executive orders on immigration and health care as a substitute for congressional action is bad enough.
He’s actually circumvented Congress in other ways, most dubiously by redirecting military funding to the border wall and also with his series of “acting” appointments not requiring Senate confirmation.
Democrats have condemned all of this. They have characterized it in the harshest possible terms. They have reacted to it by inventing the wildest scenarios of Trump perfidy and eagerly buying up a steady diet of books warning of Trump’s incipient fascism (Fascism: A Warning, On Tyranny, How Fascism Works). They have done everything, it seems, except reevaluate their own predilection for governance by presidential and administrative decree.
Kamala Harris proved it during her failed run. Her gun-control plan would have, among other things, closed the so-called boyfriend loophole to keep dating partners convicted of domestic violence from buying firearms and mandated “near-universal background checks.” Whatever you think of these measures, they would have lacked any possible basis in law.
The Des Moines Register ran a headline about a speech in Iowa she gave touting her plan — “Kamala Harris: Congress would get 100 days to act on guns before she would issue executive order.”
Thanks, Kamala, for the consideration. Giving Congress a little more than three months to do what you want before going ahead and doing it anyway is statesman-like and generous.
In a tweet, she boasted, “Some will say my plan to combat gun violence is ‘too bold.’” Actually, what discerning people said is that it is “too illegal.”
Her approach to immigration was the same. She wanted to enact an enormous amnesty and give so-called Dreamers a path to citizenship by rewriting immigration laws on her own, building on President Barack Obama’s immigration policy through ukase.
She also promised to move on prescription drug pricing by herself if Congress didn’t pass her plan.
The sense of Congress as an accessory — nice to have, but not strictly speaking necessary — suffused her program. This should be one of the foremost things people know about her, but has barely caused a ripple. Democrats and the press are never particularly exercised by executive overreach, so long as it’s in what they consider a good cause.
Of course, Biden might not pick Harris. Even if he does, she’ll be second fiddle on the ticket and he, to his credit, was the one who brought up the constitutional problem with her gun plan. But her attitude toward executive power is characteristic of the progressive mind. Whatever constitutional punctiliousness the Left has developed in response to Trump will be hastily abandoned as soon as it’s an obstacle to anything significant that progressives want to do.
© 2020 by King Features Syndicate