Government of Laws — or One Man?
Many U.S. presidents have fumed and complained about laws enacted by Congress and rulings by federal courts. Not President Barack Obama. If he doesn’t like what’s on the statute books, he just changes it.
He does that regularly, even with laws such as Obamacare that were, in effect, written at the White House.
And the chief’s attitude has spread to many others in his administration. Just this week, a federal judge suggested Environmental Protection Agency officials may have used secret e-mail accounts to avoid scrutiny of some controversial policy decisions.
A conservative organization had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for EPA documents – and that includes e-mails -concerning an allegation the agency delayed announcement of some unpopular policies until after the presidential election was over with last year.
But EPA officials did not turn over some e-mails. They didn’t even acknowledge certain e-mail accounts existed. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled against the EPA, suggesting the agency was trying to dodge full compliance with the FOIA.
As The Associated Press revealed earlier this year, use of private, unofficial e-mail accounts by government officials is common. They insist they need them to expedite business that might get bogged down if handled through official e-mail accounts.
Lamberth noted that in withholding information from private e-mail accounts, the EPA may have acted in bad faith. He suggested officials may have “purposefully attempted to skirt disclosure” under the FOIA.
Also this week, another federal court ruled the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been violating the law by holding up work on the proposed national nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
Obama’s administration, prodded by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., suspended work on the facility – which is absolutely essential if Americans are to be able to use nuclear energy safely.
But federal law requires the Energy Department to establish the Yucca Mountain facility. As the three-judge federal court panel noted, the Obama administration is “simply flouting the law” by refusing to proceed.
In fact, Obama and his cronies sometimes keep their shenanigans secret even from other government officials who may not go along with breaking the law. Former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was part of the scheme to suspend work on Yucca Mountain – and he kept that secret from other commission members.
All this is nothing new, of course. Though the new national health care law is so much a White House baby that it is called Obamacare, the president has decided to obey parts of the statute he likes – and disobey others. He granted hundreds of organizations, including political cronies such as the Service Employees International Union, exemptions from some rules.
Obama even declared unilaterally that businesses will not have to comply with some requirements of the law. That may cost millions of individuals and families dearly.
Obama also decided members of Congress and their staffs would not have to comply with Obamacare’s expensive mandates. They will continue to enjoy health care insurance subsidized by taxpayers.
Several months ago, Obama decided he wanted certain favorites appointed to federal agencies whether Congress agreed or not. So he used the “recess appointment” technique – even though Congress was not in recess.
Let’s not forget environmental regulations. Early in his administration, Obama attempted to gain approval of certain EPA programs. When Congress refused to grant it, the White House announced it would proceed on its own. In other words, the will of the people as expressed through our elected representatives will be upheld – unless Obama doesn’t agree.
Obama’s has become the most imperial presidency in our history, short, perhaps, of wartime. In many ways, the president has decided ours will be a government of laws, not men – unless the man is him.
Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.