Email #129: “ignore the Constitution”?

You accused President Obama of using “his pen and phone to stretch his authority to implement policies that Congress has refused to enact.”

You said that President Obama showed “time and again throughout his time in office that he is all-too-willing to overstep his authority and ignore the Constitution to achieve his policy goals.”

You said that your House Judiciary Committee “has a duty to conduct vigorous oversight” of the executive branch, ensuring that it is “bound by its constitutional limits.”

“The Constitution is clear,” you said: “it is the role of Congress to make all laws, the Judiciary to interpret the laws, and the President to enforce the laws.”

Given your outspoken condemnation of President Obama on these Constitutional matters, why are you not applying the same vigor in your oversight of the Trump administration? Two of the President’s executive orders require the hiring of 5,000 new border patrol agents and 10,000 new immigration officers, for a combined annual cost of $4.8 billion. Another orders the construction of his promised “Great Wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border, allocating unspecified “Federal funds for the planning, designing, and constructing of a physical wall along the southern border,” for a likely $25 billion.

But only Congress has the power to spend taxpayer money. No President can spend money that Congress hasn’t authorized. Trump, like Obama and every President before them, can then only shift around dollars within budgetary line-items. And yet President Trump’s executive orders call for new spending not authorized by Congress.

When Obama signed executive orders, you and other members of the Republican party often accused him of violating the Constitution. So far President Trump has signed 19 executive orders, many of which require unauthorized spending. But I have yet to hear you even mildly suggest that the President might be “stretching” or “overstepping” his authority, let alone violating the Constitution.

Do your Constitutional standards vary according to which political party is in the White House? Is your guidepost the Constitution or just political convenience?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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