The Congress Party Needs to Step Up

The frequency with which the Obama administration has gone rogue and completely ignored Congress’ will seems to increasing at an exponential rate. I fear that by the end of the campaign Obama will be issuing executive fiats on a daily basis. The latest: gutting welfare reform.

The landmark welfare reform law President Bill Clinton signed in 1996 helped move nearly 3 million families off the government dole — the result of federal work requirements that promoted greater self-reliance.

Yesterday the Obama administration gutted those federal work rules, ignoring the will of Congress by issuing a policy directive that allows the Department of Health and Human Services to waive the work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. “The result is the end of welfare reform,” wrote Robert Rector and Kiki Bradley of The Heritage Foundation.

Surely there was a provision in the legislation that permitted the president to grant such waivers, right? Yes. And no.

Today the Obama administration issued a dramatic new directive stating that the traditional TANF work requirements will be waived or overridden by a legal device called a section 1115 waiver authority under the Social Security law (42 U.S.C. 1315).

Section 1115 allows HHS to “waive compliance” with specified parts of various laws. But this is not an open-ended authority: All provisions of law that can be overridden under section 1115 must be listed in section 1115 itself.

The work provisions of the TANF program are contained in section 407 (entitled, appropriately, “mandatory work requirements”). Critically, this section, as well as most other TANF requirements, is deliberately not listed in section 1115; its provisions cannot be waived. Obviously, if the Congress had wanted HHS to be able to waive the TANF work requirements laid out in section 407, it would have listed that section as waivable under section 1115. It did not do that.

Remember all those crocodile tears during the Bush years about the unitary executive? Leaving aside the fact that critics completely misrepresented the doctrine and its application, it seems the left has no problem with a president truly implementing the unitary executive doctrine. Only this time instead of the President being supreme within the Executive branch, he is evidently supreme over the entire federal government.

There will of course be no repercussions from this action. While it might be cathartic to pound the keyboard about the spineless Republicans, no amount of caterwauling can change the fact that the overwhelming majority of Democrats will ensure that no corrective action is taken. It was hard enough to get a contempt vote in the House against Eric Holder. Do you think the Democrats will really allow a serious investigation, or even more?

And that’s a true pity. There used to be a time when partisan identification was almost secondary to institutional concerns. Congressmen valued the independence and authority of their own branch of government, and simply sharing party affiliation with the president didn’t prevent Congressmen from jealously guarding their prerogatives. Inter-branch rivalries were an essential element in safeguarding our republic. Today that is gone. The same committee (Oversight) that has been commendably fastidious in investigating Fast and Furious will lay down like neutered dogs should Mitt Romney win the presidency. The committee was sure loath to investigate President Obama when controlled by Democrats two years ago.

This is truly a bi-partisan issue. Congress has completely abandoned its role as an independent, co-equal branch of government. The very fact that we are so consumed by the presidential campaign is a sad reflection of how pre-eminent the presidency has become.

Congressional Democrats should be just as furious as Congressional Republicans over Obama’s actions, regardless of how they feel about the policy. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress as a whole regained a sense of institutional pride and reasserted their place in the federal framework? Sadly that’s as realistic an expectation as hoping that John Boehner will become John Rambo.

Share With Friends
  • 4

Dante alighieri


  1. Thomas Jefferson, “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.”

  2. But, he’ll put you on a morphine drip when he decides you’re to old for spend for your health care because dead people don’t vote.

  3. An interesting campaign tactic by Team Obama. This ties in nicely with advertising food stamp availability on novella commercials on Spanish language stations. The Obama campaign is running explicitly on a platform of ever increasing government dependence. Well, since Obama has made a complete hash of the economy, I guess life as a perpetual dependent and guest of the US taxpayer is the best he has to offer in order to attract voters.

  4. I would not look forward to the prospect of agricultural policy being dictated by some latter-day Jamie Whitten. I think your post is misconceived. Congress has ample regard for its institutional prerogatives, it is just that they are jealous of privileges that are discretely beneficial to each as individual actors, not of powers which aid in the execution of constitutional function. Congress could do a great deal, and has done flat nothing, to contain the misfeasance of the appellate judiciary. This last has been ongoing for nearly 60 years.

    I will offer an alternative hypothesis: we suffer from an almost comprehensive loss of a sense of common spaces and common rules. This loss is not at all symmetrical and a great deal of our political contention can be understood as a struggle between those who recognize common spaces and common rules and those who have a reflexively proprietary attitude toward all elements public life and understand law as a tool to be used in power games.

    You can see how this plays out practically. Consider the try-every-door process by which occupational guilds are harnessed for the culture wars. The American Bar Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are two organization which can for this reason no longer be taken seriously. Earlier this year, we saw it taken to its witless extreme when a conference of high school yearbook and student newspaper staffs was treated to a ‘key-note’ speech by an obnoxious professional pooftar. We have standard-issue Democratic pundits (e.g. Prof. KC Johnson) arguing that appellate courts have a moral responsibility to manufacture and impose on the rest of us ‘gay’ ‘marriage’. We have a professor at the University of Texas who conducted a perfectly ordinary piece of longitudinal research being subject to an investigation for misconduct because of a letter of complaint from a fag blogger. The courts are ours, the news rooms are ours, the arts and sciences faculties are ours, the public schools are ours, the professional guilds are ours.

    And the legislative bodies. Remember Peter Jennings referring to the 1994 federal election as a voter’s temper tantrum? Does that make any sense at all? You have competitive elections, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, right? To the Democratic cognoscenti, evidently not. The laws passed by that Congress are not binding because control of that body had been stolen from its rightful owners. Hence this asinine order.

    The order is also an indication of the degree to which the Democratic Party is a vehicle for the helping professions. Actually resolving, containing, and ameliorating social problems is of no account. Erecting public bureaucracies of helping and caring is the real show, all staffed with salaried employees who are relieved of the necessity of working for supervisors in commercial enterprises (which produce goods and services people will voluntarily purchase).

  5. This is a clarion call to the men and women of the United States of America: make a stand NOW. You must make a peaceful and civil stand now! When you stand you shall stand upon the Constitution. We The People must say enough is enough! We have had enough of the Executive branch going around the Legislative Branch.

    President Obama’s motivations matter not. The results of his actions matter not. The methods that Obama has used to impose his will are unacceptable. We have a Law and limits on Executive power for a reason. Look at the DOMA Law, the Immigration issue, and not this welfare issue. The more people there are on welfare, the less money there is for everyone on the welfare rolls. By allowing the States to ignore the searching-for-work requirement yes more people will jump on the welfare rolls. This will mean less money available for them and the people already on the welfare rolls.

    The Law excluded the Search-for-Work requirement from being waived for a reason. Now, without
    Congressional action, President Obama and his administration has rewritten the law. In doing so he and his admin. have violated the checks and balances. They have made law without the consent of the Legislature.

    He may have the purest motives. His motives don’t change the fact that he is acting more like a Ruler than a Leader. Who do YOU, the People, want running the USA? A ruler or a leader:


  6. These people don’t care about the poor. They care about control.

    Their goals are not so much socio-economic reform. They are intent on replacing the ruling elites, of course, with themselves.

  7. This is a huge deal. A lot of things that get coverage in an election year aren’t, but the legal and practical impact of this unilateral decision is huge.

    The problem is, during what’s called the “silly season” of a political campaign, everybody denounces everything equally loudly. The president says that the private sector is doing just fine, and the conservative politicians and bloggers make an outcry. Every jobs report, an outcry. Something like this that really matters, the same people are going to gripe about it, but will anyone else notice? Every time one side makes a fuss, the other side denounces them as just making a fuss – and they’re often right. To this day I can’t figure out if Fast and Furious or Holder’s contempt charge really mean anything. I wish there were a way to underline the things that really matter.

  8. Art Deco: “I would not look forward to the prospect of agricultural policy being dictated by some latter-day Jamie Whitten. I think your post is misconceived. Congress has ample regard for its institutional prerogatives, it is just that they are jealous of privileges that are discretely beneficial to each as individual actors, not of powers which aid in the execution of constitutional function. Congress could do a great deal, and has done flat nothing, to contain the misfeasance of the appellate judiciary. This last has been ongoing for nearly 60 years.”
    Start with Executive Order Rural Councils 13575 Which arrogates to the Executive Branch the power to come onto private farms (without permission or invitation or notice) and dictate and/or confiscates, unless it approves of the way the farm land is utuilized. In the Jubilee Year the land was to rest. The land was to lay fallow and the people were to eat of the aftergrowth. Rural Councils will confiscate every piece of private property in America.
    In other Executive Orders, Obama has ordered the Judicial Department to enforce all Executive Orders fifteen years old. Clinton placed all free lands and waterways under the exclusive control of the Executive Branch of Government.
    All free lands and waterways, all public property is owned in joint and common tenancy by each and every citizen in whole and in part.

    “I will offer an alternative hypothesis: we suffer from an almost comprehensive loss of a sense of common spaces and common rules.”
    And rightly so,…because the sense of common spaces and common rules have been wrenched from our freedom, leaving every American citizen with words without meaning or substance and not protected by law . What good is a feel good law that requires no response from our elected officials or a law that has already been abrogated by an Executive Order?

  9. Rousseau warned of this long ago

    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall. When it is necessary to march out to war, they pay troops and stay at home: when it is necessary to meet in council, they name deputies and stay at home. By reason of idleness and money, they end by having soldiers to enslave their country and representatives to sell it…

    The better the constitution of a State is, the more do public affairs encroach on private in the minds of the citizens. Private affairs are even of much less importance, because the aggregate of the common happiness furnishes a greater proportion of that of each individual, so that there is less for him to seek in particular cares. In a well-ordered city every man flies to the assemblies: under a bad government no one cares to stir a step to get to them, because no one is interested in what happens there, because it is foreseen that the general will will not prevail, and lastly because domestic cares are all-absorbing. Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse. As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State, “What does it matter to me?” the State may be given up for lost.”

  10. Pretty soon, people will decide to stop working & just go on welfare but, of course, many of us wouldn’t choose that option. There’s nothing wrong to be on welfare if it is necessary but to give a waiver to job requirements is pandering to those people, encouraging them to vote for him. Every week, he panders to groups by giving away taxpayers money. There’s no stopping this guy unless he is defeated in November.

  11. Michael,

    Military conscription was only the norm in this country from 1940 to 1973. We had a great deal of history before and after that and have so had since. It would be impractical to attempt to run any but the smallest municipalities through town meetings, which is why it is not done.

  12. I’ll just add that nothing that has happened in this country over the past century or so is due to not following Rousseau closely enough. Quite the contrary.

    I would certainly never suggest that Congress needs to oversee the policies it votes for. That’s what the Executive Branch is for. All I ask is for Congress to take heed of its own institutional independence. It’s a fool’s hope, I know.

  13. This post has a tag called Checks and Balances.
    I loved learning that checks and balances were part of this government. I had confidence that our government could not go far off from logic and reason, went about the things of life, until I started hearing the words ‘deficit’, ‘deficit spending’, and most lately 2008 ‘bail outs’, ‘national debt’, numbers in trillions, not to mention social engineering and legislation of same.
    Looking forward to ‘cut back’ and ‘balancing budget’ especially by means of checks and balances because currently there is no apparent scale, order, logic or reason that has any virtue.

  14. All I ask is for Congress to take heed of its own institutional independence. It’s a fool’s hope, I know.

    But they do take heed of their institutional independence, just not in the service of the integrity of the law or political process. Their taking heed is Jamie Whitten dictating who can use the washroom at the Agriculture Department, dozens of appointments held up on the whim of Richard Shelby, Daniel Rostenkowski and Barney Frank writing favors for their clientele into federal tax law and banking law, federal district courts and prosecutors’ offices reduced to dumping grounds for patronage, Ted Stevens being Ted Stevens, and watersheds being mauled in the service of press releases and brochures.

  15. On the way home from Mass this morning I read the bumpers stickers: “Praise Dog”, “Obama 08”. Begging for our civil, constitutional, unalienable rights, is not working. The only strategy is IMPEACH, IMPEACH, IMPEACH. IMPEACH Brennan and Blackmun posthumously, for violating the Supreme Court’s constitutional commission to uphold the inviolable right to Life in Roe v. Wade. Stupid does not get compensation. IMPEACH Obama before Obama gets another turn at being the INFANT BUTCHER. IMPEACH Obama before Obama arrogates to himself the power to annihilate the human person in body and soul, eradicate the U.S. Constitution and replace it with the Marxist Manifesto and impose a one world government under the world bank. IMPEACH Obama for taking the oath of office to uphold the Constitution and delivering it into the hands of unelected individuals and himself to destroy the sovereignty of the American citizen, the sovereignty of the American Nation, the Sovereignty of the Supreme Sovereign Being and the Holy Catholic Church. When God is attacked, every human being, as the creation of God, is attacked. When the Catholic Church is attacked, all human beings are attacked.
    People cannot defend themselves against such unjust laws as Obamacare, Prayer ban, and infanticide because there is no law in these impositions of lies and crime. Legalizing crime is not possible. Decriminalizing crime is not possible. Crime against God and man are criminalized in our founding principles. Obama must be IMPEACHED, so that those demons praising dog wrongfully and refusing to praise God rightfully cannot rule in America.

  16. You could have also mentioned the Chief Justice who in his Obamacare decision made it clear that John Marshall was overstepping his bounds when declaring that the SCOTUS had the duty to review the Constitutionality of Executive and Legislative Branch actions.

    This is what happens when local and state politics are marginalized. In the past pols had to answer to their state parties. When their Federal service ended they almost always returned to their State. This gave a certain practical and psychological independence to Congress people serving at the Federal level. Now they are all creatures of a national media and fundraising system that can either lift them or hound them wherever they go. So blue dog Dems willingly walked the plank since they would at least get to be bundlers and lobbyists or media types in the future.

  17. When a president signs a bill or passes a law that is not constitutional he commits perjury upon the oath that he took to uphold the TRUTH, the whole TRUTH and nothing but the Truth and the Constitution for the United States of America, “so help me God”. When any representative or senator votes for a bill or passes a bill or law that is unconstitutional, he too, commits perjury against his oath of office. In both cases, because these elected officials represent their entire constituency, especially the president of the United States of America, these people commit treason against the nation, our founding principles, their constituency and their oath of office. IMPEACH

Comments are closed.