Would President Romney Be Allowed to Disregard the Law?
Robert Delahunty, a former Department of Justice attorney, poses an interesting counterfactual to those defending President Barack Obama’s possible legalization of 5 million illegal immigrants.
“One has to wonder how those who consider such non-enforcement to be constitutional would react if a President Mitt Romney announced that his Internal Revenue Service would simply stop collecting capital gains tax on the rich, or that his Environmental Protection Agency would no longer seek to impose legal penalties on polluters,” writes Delahunty.
Delahunty’s thought experiment is worth elaborating. If it’s true that presidents can assume lawmaking powers when Congress refuses to implement his will – a point I’m only granting for the sake of argument; Articles I and II of the Constitution clearly foreclose this possibility – then it stands to reason that any Republican running for president in 2016 can simply campaign on a promise not to enforce any law he does not like. Why worry with winning control of Congress? All any political party needs to do is win one race – the presidency – and the entire executive branch can be put in the service of the party’s platform.
It’s an outcome so at odds with our constitutional system that in saner days it would have been ruled out as a serious option as soon as it was floated. But we are in transformative times. Future presidents and their would-be advisors are taking notes. If President Obama is allowed to get away with such a regime-shattering power grab – and unilaterally importing 5 million new citizens would be just that – then there is very little reason to justify limits on even bigger abuses hereafter.