Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 21, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


I thank the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. Speaker, I am struck by having been here to witness something that I think is pretty neat. We had a newly sworn in Member take the oath of office to become a Member of this body. Part of it is neat because he got endorsed by Duck Dynasty, which I know a lot of people like; but it was neat because I think it reminds us what our duties are here. He was asked to take an oath of office right here in the well of the House. That oath was very simple. It charged him with the duty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

I think we need to have more of a reminder that that is our duty here. I am struck by reading the Constitution and how the Founding Fathers laid out separation of powers and checks and balances.

For example, article I states clearly:

All legislative powers shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.

Article II prescribes authority for the President and imposes a duty on him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

I think that going back on those constitutional foundations and looking at how this particular President has made claims of his authority to essentially put aside the law or change the law should cause us great concern.

For example, with this employer mandate aspect of ObamaCare, the statute said very clearly it shall take effect this January 2014.

Well, that, obviously, would have been disastrous had they implemented that. We in the House were willing to delay it by statute. The President chose to do it by executive fiat.

And then most recently with the idea that ObamaCare was causing people to lose their plans, a lot of people in this body said, Look, we ought to grandfather these plans in; let people keep their plans. The President threatened to veto that, and then he issued, essentially, an executive order saying he is going to extend the grandfather clause and not enforce the ObamaCare mandate that is causing the cancelations.

So, on the one hand, ObamaCare is a holy writ that people in Congress are not allowed to touch in any way with our Article I power, but the President can essentially pick and choose which parts to enforce, which parts to delay, and who to grant waivers to. That ultimately is not sustainable, and it conflicts with the basic structure of American Government.

The American Revolution, if you read the Declaration of Independence, it was a revolt against executive power and the British King. Jefferson lists all the abuses that they were revolting against. One of the things that he mentioned was that King George III, what King George III had done wrong was for abolishing our most valuable laws and altering, fundamentally, the form of government.

Students in school throughout America are taught, Congress passes the law and the President can sign or veto the law, and the President has the duty to enforce the law. Now, there is certainly prosecutorial discretion that comes with that. If the President has a good-faith belief that a law is unconstitutional, of course they have to prefer the Constitution to the statute. But here, this President has not made any claim that ObamaCare is unconstitutional; and, indeed, he can't, because it is his signature piece of legislation.

I think the key thing to think about is the Founding Fathers did not create separation of powers, checks and balances because they thought that students would need something to study in civics class. They did it because, ultimately, that structure of government was the surest way to protect the individual liberty of the American people and to preserve and maintain the rule of law.

I think disputes that we have regarding what this particular President may do should not even be about him, per se, because that just gets lost in partisanship back and forth. I think when

we see any President taking steps that may not comport with how the structure of the government was intended to operate, we have to think about what precedent that sets, not just tomorrow, but 50 years from now. And so I have introduced a resolution that enumerates some of the instances in which the President has gone beyond using executive discretion and is essentially rewriting the law, either by failing to enforce entirely or suspending affirmatively different provisions of the law.

Much has been said recently about the failure of this core promise with respect to ObamaCare, that if you like your plan, you can keep it can. Obviously, we are seeing that is not true. We are going to continue to see that. People are going to lose doctors, and it really is a deception on a massive scale.

So I was thinking, you like your plan, you keep your plan; that obviously didn't work. Maybe we should get everyone in Congress and the White House to agree with this simple proposition: if you take an oath to the Constitution, you should keep your oath to the Constitution.

I thank the gentleman from Texas for yielding to me, and I know you will be someone who will take that oath seriously.