The U.S. Constitution, Obama’s Door Mat

A few days after the 2008 elections, Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of President-Elect Obama’s transition team, was interviewed by Tom Brokaw on “Meet the Press”, where she stated: “ [Obama] is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” At the time it was written off by most as simply a poor choice of words, but after the last three years in which Obama has compiled an inglorious record of contempt for the Constitution, Jarrett’s words now have proven prophetic. Obama has even surpassed FDR in the sheer brazenness of his contempt for our nation as a rule of law under the Constitution, and in attempts to make servants of the other co-equal branches of government.

Obama truly seems to see himself in the role of a king, with power to enforce his agenda by sheer will, ignoring law and precedent in crushing opposition to his executive branch tyranny. Two recent events have added to our despicable president’s legacy of corruption, disdain and contempt for the Constitution; his signing of the National Defense Appropriations Act, which funds military and defense operations, but that also contains a provision that should terrify every American that loves freedom; and Obama’s appointment of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) is frightening because of Amendment 1031, a provision which, under the guise of combating terrorism, allows the military to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial, a blatant and grotesque violation of the due process rights of U.S. citizens. It was just a few short years ago that Democrats protested against the Bush-era policy of indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay of enemy combatants captured on the field of battle trying to kill Americans. Now we have a Democrat president (who, it should be noted, was one of the ones calling indefinite detention of terrorists un-American) who just signed a law granting him power to eviscerate the rights of American citizens.

The fact that the vote was a bipartisan measure, and that Obama proclaimed that he would not use the provision allowing him to detain American citizens, is small comfort. Obama has long ago shown that his word has the consistency of wet toilet paper (the generic single ply kind, not even the expensive stuff), and that he will do and say whatever he has to in order to advance his agenda and expand his power. His abuse of power has gone well beyond anything George W. Bush was accused of, yet the political left remains mum on these counts.

This law allows the government to indefinitely detain American citizens engaged in terrorism or “belligerent acts” against the U.S. government. Yet how are terrorism and belligerence defined and who gets to define it? What speeches or actions rise to the level of belligerence or terrorism? According to comments made by Vice President Joe Biden back in August, TEA Party-supported Republican members of the House of Representatives “acted like terrorists” for not conceding more to Democrats over the debt limit hike. Steve Rattner, Obama’s “car czar” (who paid a $10 million fine for influence peddling), said Republican steadfastness in the debt fight was a “form of economic terrorism”, and that “these TEA Party guys are, like, strapped with dynamite, standing in the middle of Times Square at rush hour, and saying either you do it my way or we are going to blow you up…” At this point, does anyone seriously trust our government not to use whatever pretext is necessary to suppress dissent against its tyrannical actions? Are you ready to live in a world where speech that is critical of government is considered “terrorism”, and where your government can lock you up without any rights?

The other event was the recess appointment of Richard Cordray as the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There is only one problem..the Senate was not in recess. Under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution, the president has the power to appoint federal judges and high-level cabinet and policy-making positions, with the advice and consent of the Senate. In most cases this is a mere formality, as Congress has traditionally given the president wide discretion here. In addition, Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 grants the president the power to make “recess” appointments. In these cases the president is able to make the appointment when Congress is not in session, with the caveat that the appointment is valid only until the adjournment (sine die) of the next Senate session, at which time the position becomes vacant pending confirmation by the Senate.

Though unusual, on occasion the Senate, in order to block controversial nominees, goes into what is called a pro forma session. Under Article I, Section 5, Clause 4, the Constitution stipulates that neither house of Congress may adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other. Pro forma (Latin for “as a matter of form”) sessions are sessions in which no actual business is conducted, and the session is opened and closed with very few members in actual attendance. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), the acknowledged master of Senate rules and traditions, used the threat of pro forma sessions against President Ronald Reagan in 1985 to extract a promise from him that he would not make recess appointments after the Senate adjourned.

In addition, under the 110th and 111th Congresses (from November 2007 until the end of the Bush presidency), Democrats enacted pro forma sessions to keep President George W. Bush from being able to make recess appointments. They were successful in their efforts, for Bush made not a single recess appointment through the end of his presidency.

One may ask, since the Senate is controlled by Democrats, how it is that the Senate has been unable to adjourn for more than three days so that Obama can make recess appointments. That would be because the House is controlled by Republicans, and they have refused to pass a concurrent resolution of adjournment, forcing the Senate to come in every three days for a pro forma session.

However, this week Obama declared the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the CFPB in spite of the fact that the Senate had never officially recessed. His argument is, to summarize, that because the Senate is not conducting business, the pro forma sessions are a sham, and he is simply declaring unilaterally that such pro forma sessions are illegitimate, and therefore the Senate is in recess, hence his ability to make the appointment.

In essence, our Community-Organizer-in-Chief, a product of the Chicago School of Political Thuggery, has declared an end to the separation of powers and the mandates of the Constitution on this matter. He is declaring a blatant usurpation of the legislative powers, claiming now that he, not the Senate, may determine what shall be the rules of the Senate. He and he alone may now declare which laws, rules and traditions this nation will be governed by.

Democrats are mocking and dismissing Republican concerns over such a blatant and illegal use of executive power, claiming that Republicans only care about obstructing Obama’s agenda (although, with the disastrous results of those policies, that is not a bad thing in and of itself). However, they should remember that what comes around goes around, and that they should not whine when the next Republican president uses this ploy to appoint Supreme Court Justice Ann Coulter, Secretary of Defense Rush Limbaugh, and Treasury Secretary Ron Paul. You can bet there will be some hell-raising then.


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