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Stop Clinton power grabs

The Victoria Advocate

By: Dan Cobb

One of the most interesting pieces of legislation introduced in the current session of Congress is the work of Ron Paul, who represents our own 14th Congressional District in Washington.
We refer to HR 2655, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 1999, by which Paul hopes to rein in the unbridled use of executive orders by presidents to short-circuit the legislative process.
   The problem of presidential usurpation of legislative power has existed since the establishment of the United States, but it has grown exponentially with the expansion of the federal government during the 20th century. Somewhere along the way, the public came to look on the president as the governmental equivalent of a corporate CEO -- the person who actually runs the country -- rather than as an executive who fulfills a set of limited constitutional duties.
   Paul's bill, which currently is awaiting action by the three committees that have been given jurisdiction over it, would require that all presidential directives -- executive orders and proclamations alike -- specify the constitutional or statutory provision that empowers the president to take action. Absent that, a directive would be invalid.
   A new study by the Cato Institute documents the explosion in executive orders since Theodore Roosevelt, who issued 1,006 such orders, compared to only a couple of hundred issued by the 24 presidents who preceded him in office. Bill Clinton has signed more than 300, and courts have stopped him only once.
   Among them:
    In 1995, Clinton issued Executive Order 12954 in an effort to overturn the 1938 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows employers to hire replacement workers during strikes. In 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994, Congress explicitly rejected legislation to achieve that end. A federal court struck down Clinton's attempt to circumvent the courts and Congress as unconstitutional, which clearly it was.
    In 1996, a few weeks before winning reelection, Clinton issued Proclamation 6920, establishing the 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Mon-ument in Utah. A House committee later determined that the order was illegal because the lands were not threatened. The panel also found that the president's real goal was to undermine a congressional wilderness proposal. A suit against the order is pending.
    In 1997, Clinton's Executive Order 13061 established the American Heritage Rivers Initiatives, which requires federal approval of state and local land use decisions affecting designated rivers, and he redirected $2 million in congressionally appropriated funds to launch the program. A suit to halt its implementation was dismissed.
   Clinton's most egregious abuse so far is Executive Order 13083, issued in 1998, which redefined federalism (the relationship between the federal government and the states) to assert federal supremacy. The order allowed federal decisions to pre-empt those of the states for a variety of new reasons, including whenever there was a need for ``uniform national standards,'' or when states were reluctant to impose ``necessary regulations.''
   Congressional outrage over that one was so intense that the president suspended his order, but the trend is clear -- Clinton, in the words of an editorial writer for the Indianapolis Star, ``has turned the presidency into a one-man legislature.''
   Moreover, it's only going to get worse. In testimony on his bill before a House subcommittee, Paul noted that the Nov. 1 issue of U.S. News & World Report magazine reported that ``Clinton plans a series of executive orders and changes to federal rules that he can sign into law without first getting the ok from GOP naysayers. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was quoted as saying, `There's a pretty wide sweep of things we're looking to do, and we're going to be very aggressive in pursuing it.'''
   Clearly the White House is out of control. Congress must pass Paul's bill if the country is to prevent further usurpation of power by the White House.

Originally published on: November 16, 1999 on page 12A.


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