Friday, November 18, 2016

The American Presidency and the Transfer of Power

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In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the adoption and ratification of the United States Constitution, there remained a heightened level of anxiety about the kind of power the President might wield. The nation—in its early infancy—needed an executive who was strong enough to protect the national interests, but not so strong that his rule was oppressive to the people (who had just come out from under the thumb of the tyrannical King George III). He had to be balanced, level-headed, and above all, humble. He had to exert his will, but not so far that he overpowered the will of the people, the bounds of the Constitution, or the role of the other branches of government.

Enter George Washington.

As our first President, it was Washington's responsibility to shape, in practical terms, what the American Presidency would be. Needless to say, he was a great success in that regard. He was bold, but he was trustworthy. He made the Constitution his guidebook. He refused to extend his reach beyond the bounds of our founding documents. He understood his own limitations, and was eager to seek the counsel of others, including—significantly—members of the legislative branch. When he retired from the Presidency, he attended the inauguration of his successor, President John Adams. It was the first successful transfer of power from one Administration to the next in the United States, and it displayed in full that the power was vested in the office, and not in the person holding the office.

During this past month, the people have chosen a new President, and they've given him new mandates and directives for what they'd like to see accomplished in these next four years. They've rejected the policies of the Obama Administration, and they've asked for new and markedly different leadership. They've said loud and clear that they're ready for change.

Unfortunately, a function of modern bureaucracy is a spike in regulatory rule-making that happens during any President's final year. These "midnight rules," as they're called, represent an insistence on the status quo by outgoing Administrations that are no longer accountable to the people. They entrench policies that the people have rejected at significant expense—in this instance, an estimated $13 billion—to taxpayers and to businesses.

The people have suffered enough under this President's regulatory agenda. That's why the House passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 5982) this week to deter lame-duck Presidents from pushing through last-minute regulations that fly in the faces of the American people. This legislation creates a rapid-response method for Congress to overturn an outgoing Presidential Administration's attempts to impose major regulations without the transparency and scrutiny expected in normal regulatory implementation. This bill specifically amends the Congressional Review Act to allow Congress to overturn multiple midnight rules in a fell swoop.

Washington's Presidency set the standard for an executive branch that is transparent and forthright with the people. We owe it to ourselves to protect that legacy. This legislation preserves the balance of power and limits any Administration's ability to force an agenda that the people have explicitly disapproved. I'm proud to support this piece of legislation and any piece of legislation that enhances accountability in Washington and protects the Constitution. 


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