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VIEW FROM AROUND THE STATE: Can the courts return balance?

— From the Beloit Daily News

Founders intended to avoid an all-powerful presidency.

There’s little doubt the simmering struggle between President Trump and House Democrats ultimately will move to the federal courts. That could be a good thing for the American people.

Here’s why. For most of the last century and all of this one the federal government has taken a dramatic turn away from the Founders’ intent of a strong Congress — as the branch closest to the people — and a comparatively weaker executive.

It has happened under both Democrat and Republican control. And it hasn’t necessarily occurred because power-mad presidents schemed to usurp the Article I authorities of Congress, but rather because a timid Congress failed to make decisions and willingly shifted power to the White House.

For example, the Constitution grants sole authority to Congress to declare war. For most living Americans peacetime has been seldom seen. Yet the last time America fought under a congressional declaration of war was WWII.

It is not an exaggeration to say multiple presidents, acting as commander in chief, have waged war wherever and whenever they wanted. Congress didn’t declare it, Congress didn’t stop it, Congress meekly went along.

Neither is Trump the first to defy congressional demands for information. Republicans sought more documents in the gun-running controversy known as “Fast and Furious,” and held President Obama’s then-attorney general Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to comply. Republicans, not surprisingly, cried foul over administration defiance. Now it’s Democrats demanding information from Trump for oversight functions, and Democrats seething over non-compliance, while Republicans cheer the administration’s refusal.

Likewise, the power of the purse — granted strictly to Congress in Article I — has become fully partisan. When President Trump, on his own authority, claimed the right to build a wall with money allocated by Congress for other purposes — after Congress specifically rejected funding the wall — Democrats objected and Republicans went along.

That’s what has gone astray from the vision of the Founders, as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. And it has gone there because of blind partisanship.

Congress is paralyzed and unable to fulfill its constitutional duties because members view every matter strictly through a partisan lens, on both sides. Whether executive action is right or wrong depends solely on whether the White House occupant has an “R” or a “D” by his name. Congress largely has abdicated its constitutional role and surrendered its authority because members simply will not cross partisan lines to uphold Article I powers.

Remember, it didn’t start when Trump took the oath of office. Congress has become increasingly servile to the White House over decades.

So we would welcome a monumental series of cases being brought to the U.S. Supreme Court to sort out Article I (legislative) and Article II (executive) powers.

The only worry is over finding out whether the Article III courts — in this modern, polarized era — have succumbed to the partisan virus. The question is whether the courts will set America back on the constitutional path as written by the Founders, or finish the job of making the Article II executive all-powerful.

One comment

  1. If Congress continues to thwart President Trump and try to remove him, the people will not stand for it. There would be a rebellion unlike any in our history. At this point it would better for Congress, as a body, to step down and for the country to reevaluate our legislative process which is a complete disaster.

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