Limiting Power Of the Presidency

As if on cue, President Barack Obama validated a prediction made in this space last Sunday. In the process, he told millions of West Virginians and Ohioans he plans to make life more expensive and difficult for us – and there is nothing we can do about it.

Last Sunday, our lead editorial warned Obama probably would intensify his assault on the coal industry and reasonable electricity prices. He and the Environmental Protection Agency already have ignored the will of Congress on some coal-related issues, we noted.

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Obama insisted more action against coal is needed. He added that, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future…”

That will be nothing new, of course. Again, Obama has bypassed Congress repeatedly in his campaign to replace electricity generated from coal at reasonable prices with power from high-cost sources such as wind and solar generators.

Some in Congress understand the issue is more critical than whether millions of American households and businesses will have to pay much more for electricity, though that certainly is important enough. What is at stake is whether the Obama administration will be permitted to render Congress irrelevant.

Read that pledge by Obama again: “If Congress won’t act … I will.”

Federal judges already have made it clear the Obama administration overstepped its authority regarding some anti-coal initiatives. The president’s reaction has been not to back away from such action, but to promise to intensify it. At what point will the White House decide it has been so successful in shuffling Congress aside that it can move to circumvent the judicial branch?

Some lawmakers recognize the need to rein in what has become an imperial presidency. A few of them are gaining more power within the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., continues to introduce bills aimed at moderating Obama’s war on coal.

And last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was named chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining. That will give him procedural power he lacked previously in his fight against the war on coal.

Again, however, this is more than a single issue – though it certainly is critical not just to residents of our state but also to tens of millions of other Americans. This is about the limits of White House power and whether, in effect, Congress will insist on the separation of powers mandated by the Constitution, or will allow Obama to continue his imperial presidency.