The Lawlessness of the Obama Administration
by Senator Mike Rounds
Throughout President Obama’s time in office, he and officials within his administration have acted without deference to the law when issuing new rules, regulations and mandates. The executive branch has, in many cases, chosen to ignore the two other branches of government which the Constitution explicitly states are coequals. This undermines each branch’s ability to keep the others in check. The president gets around the system of checks and balances by issuing executive orders, having his departments issue regulations or directives and – in some cases – willfully ignoring the law of the land. Even worse, many of these rules and regulations are negatively impacting South Dakotans. In some cases, it takes the courts years to overturn these rules.
Many South Dakotans are familiar with the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps. It is a regulation that gives the Army Corps and the EPA control of nearly all water, including man-made water management systems, farm ponds, drainage ditches and any other water that the EPA decides has a “significant nexus” to downstream water. It would call for farmers, ranchers and other landowners to comply with burdensome and costly permitting requirements. A number of states across the country, including South Dakota, have sued the federal government to stop the WOTUS rule from being implemented, and last fall a judge issued a nationwide stay to halt the rule. However, reports have recently surfaced that the Army Corps has been moving forward with implementation of the rule anyway, blatantly violating the law.
Another Obama administration agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is being investigated for its apparent failure to keep official records of employees’ electronic communications. This is in direct violation of the Federal Records Act, a law put into place in 1950 to establish a system for appropriate record keeping within federal government agencies. Keep in mind, the IRS has a history of conveniently losing important records. Emails and computer equipment were destroyed around the time that congressional committees held hearings to examine the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case related to President Obama’s 2014 executive order on immigration. The executive order completely changed U.S. immigration law, delayed deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and gave legal status and government benefits to more than four million undocumented immigrants. Twenty-four states sued the federal government over this executive action, and a federal judge in Texas ordered the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to stop processing applications from undocumented immigrants. However, the Department of Homeland Security admitted to granting more than 100,000 permits after the injunction was ordered, and even worse, officials at the Department of Justice knew what was happening the entire time and did nothing to stop it.
These are just a few examples of the Obama administration ignoring the law to promote the president’s liberal, progressive agenda with little regard for those who would be affected. Our founding fathers drafted the Constitution to prevent one branch of government from having more power than the other two. It would do our next president well to remember that he or she is responsible for upholding the law rather than manipulating it to fit his or her political agenda.
Congress has the ability to vote on, and has frequently passed, resolutions of disapproval of the president’s many regulations, but the president continues to veto them. To overturn that veto, the Senate needs a two-thirds majority vote. With the current makeup of the Senate, that has become nearly impossible. Additionally, states and other entities have sued the administration in an attempt to stop these infractions. But, it takes years for the courts to enforce the laws that we have on the books, slowing down the process by which the powers of the three branches of government are balanced.