Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 9:53 pm | Mostly Cloudy 59º


Harris Sherline: Obama Administration’s Contempt for the Law

They've made a habit of overstepping limitations established by the U.S. Constitution

When people fail to obey the law, they are usually prosecuted and penalized in some way, such as a fine or jail time — right? At least that’s what most of us generally believe happens, or should happen. And I suspect that most people would interpret refusal to obey an injunction as something that should be punished accordingly.

So, how is it that the Obama administration can ignore federal court decisions or orders with seeming impunity? For example, an injunction was issued by a federal court to discontinue its policy of preventing drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

We have what is generally referred to as a constitutional government. That is, a government that functions according to the limitations established by the U.S. Constitution.

What has always made it work has been the willingness of Americans to generally abide by the law. Without that, we could easily degenerate into a society in which every man (woman or child) only obeys those laws they choose. It would literally be everyone for him or herself.

There has always been tension between the Executive Branch and Congress, with each attempting to limit the actions of the other and/or attempting to increase their own authority and power. That’s the way the founders designed our government.

However, in the years since Barack Obama became president, his administration has stretched the prerogatives of his office to the point that many people believe is unconstitutional.

Consider the following examples:

» Empowering the Environmental Protection Agency to issue endangerment findings: The EPA concluded that greenhouse gasses endanger human health and welfare and made a decision to trigger Clean Air Act regulation, which many people believe will hurt the economy and eliminate jobs.

The New York Times reported that the EPA and environmentalists say the agency is required by law to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and is finalizing new greenhouse gas rules for automobiles and large stationary sources. However, several industry groups, conservative think tanks, lawmakers and three states have filed a total of 16 court challenges in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

» Ignoring a federal district court order to stop implementing Obamacare: A federal judge ruled Obamacare unconstitutional. Unlike previous judges, Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the entire Obamacare law must be thrown out and implementation halted immediately because the mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and not “severable” from the rest of the legislation.

However, the administration stated that it will not comply and will continue to implement Obamacare regardless of the federal courts, telling The Wall Street Journal that the entire plan is still fully operational, that nothing has or will stop the Health and Human Services Department from continuing to carry out the full Obamacare plan.

Furthermore, although the Justice Department could file an injunction to petition the court for permission for Obama to continue implementing some of his health-care bill, they have not done so. By failing to immediately halt implementation of Obamacare, the administration is now actively defying the federal courts.

» Ordering companies that do business with the federal government to disclose their political donations: Obama is expected to sign an executive order that reverses 70 years of efforts to get politics out of official federal business. The order will require all companies (and their officers) to list their political donations as a condition to bidding for government contracts. Companies could bid and lose out for the sin of donating to Republicans. Or they can protect their livelihoods by halting donations to the GOP altogether, which appears to be the White House’s real aim.

» Instructing the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has banned federal recognition of same-sex unions since 1996: Obama “has made the determination” that “same-sex couples who are legally married under state law violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment,” and has instructed government lawyers to no longer defend the law in two cases.

However, administration officials pledged to continue to enforce the law, which remains in effect unless Congress repeals it or a court strikes it down. The decision not to defend a federal law amounts to a major change of course for the administration, which had previously said it was obligated to do so even if it disagreed with it.

» Failure to enforce border protection in Arizona: The state of Arizona has sued the federal government for its failure to secure its border with Mexico and enforce immigration laws. The federal government’s failure to obtain operational control of the border with Mexico, failure to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, failure to protect Arizona from harm from immigration, failure to reimburse Arizona for more than $763 million in costs for incarceration of criminal aliens, and violating the 10th Amendment of Arizona’s Constitution — to protect the welfare of Arizona’s citizens.

» Failure to seek approval of Congress to send U.S. troops overseas to Libya during the confrontation with that country’s leader, Moammar Kadafi: The War Powers Resolution of 1973 stipulates that the president must have authorization of Congress to send U.S. troops overseas. The president is required to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. The resolution was passed by two-thirds of Congress, overriding a presidential veto.

» The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling claiming that Boeing violated federal labor laws in deciding to start manufacturing a new line of its 787 planes in South Carolina, seeking to force the firm to make the Dreamliner aircraft at its current plant in Everett, Wash.

The NLRB’s acting general counsel alleged in his complaint that Boeing’s decision to open a nonunion factory in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, discriminated against its Washington state employees who belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

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