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Restoring Article I Constitutional Powers to Congress

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Washington, April 18, 2016 | comments
Rep. Dave Brat spoke on the floor of the House regarding Texas V. U.S. and President Obama's unconstitutional actions on immigration.
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Mr. Speaker, today I rise to discuss the case being heard before the Supreme Court, United States v. Texas, and the President’s unconstitutional executive actions on immigration and the need for the restoration of the balance of powers between the branches of government. This case is the challenge to President Obama’s executive actions for illegal immigrants, the so-called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, otherwise known as DAPA, an expansion of the earlier Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA. The lawsuit was brought by Governors and attorneys general from the Texas Supreme Court and 25 other States. That is significant, in and of itself.

Under these unconstitutional programs, President Obama claims the right to, by executive fiat, make an illegal immigrant “lawfully present.” Let me say that again real slow. The President claims, by right, by executive fiat, to make an illegal immigrant “lawfully present” in the United States and eligible to receive a work permit after an application is reviewed and a fee is paid. This is straight out of “1984.”

The language is upside down. The government is handing out work permits and making illegal immigrants eligible to work in the United States as well as receive Social Security, unemployment, and disability benefits. But this only hurts American citizens and taxpayers.

What has Congress done about this? Not enough.

The real issue in this case is not discretion, but whether or not there is any limit at all on Presidential power.

The Founders recognized these distinctions, and they made Congress the first branch among equals of the Federal Government and the most accountable branch to the American people—and thus, Article I, not II. The Congress is Article I.

The Founders created a system of checks and balances to ensure no individual could gain absolute power within the government without a check, not even George Washington, whom they all loved.

Under our Constitution, the Congress is entrusted with “all legislative powers”—all, including the power “to establish a uniform rule of naturalization.”

The Founders drafted the Constitution to clearly state that it is not the President who writes the laws; Congress does. Much of the President’s job is to faithfully execute these laws passed by Congress. In fact, neither any immigration law nor the Constitution empowers the Executive to authorize, let alone facilitate, the violation of the laws passed by Congress. The President even acknowledged this 22 times on TV before using his pen and phone to act alone without Congress.

This imbalance of powers is a threat to self-government itself. Our inaction, time and again, has expanded the administrative state and left the American people without a voice in Washington. The Presidential elections on both sides of the aisle are making this abundantly clear.

For starters, we can advocate for reforms in four principled areas: reclaiming Congress’ power of the purse, reforming executive-empowering legislative “cliffs,” restoring congressional authority over regulations and regulators, and reining in executive discretion.

I have sponsored simple legislation to do just that: return power back to Congress. I introduced a bill to reform this process with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, the primary agency for implementing the President’s immigration executive order.

USCIS funds itself through application fees, which insulates it from the will of the American people as expressed through their Representatives in Congress. Congress cannot effectively exercise its powers through the appropriations process to perform basic oversight functions and ensure the agency is executing the laws faithfully.

My proposal, the Use Spending for Congressional Immigration Supervision, USCIS, Act, will make unaccountable agencies like the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services accountable to Congress and, therefore, accountable to the American people. Putting USCIS on appropriations ensures that unelected bureaucrats are held accountable and provides transparency for how the Federal Government is raising and spending your money.

Congress needs to reassert its power of the purse by making agency budgets subject to appropriations, but we cannot stop there. There is more Congress has to do to restore Congress’ power to hold the executive branch accountable. The Constitution still gives Congress all its powers. It is up to Congress to step up and start using them.
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