On Tuesday, in his first cabinet meeting of the year, President Obama indicated he is prepared to use executive actions more frequently to advance administration goals. “We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we are providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama told his Cabinet.
Over at First Things, Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, provides a blistering reply to the President’s “I’ve got a pen . . . ” remark:
This thinly veiled threat to, in effect, legislate by executive edict, spoken by the President of the United States, should cause every friend of the Constitution, the rule of law, the separation of powers, limited government, and political liberty to shudder. Who does this man think he is? A medieval king? He may have a pen, but we have a Constitution. And that Constitution vests all legislative powers granted to the United States in the Congress. It is the duty of the President to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. It is not within the scope of the powers of his office to make laws or amend them by fiat.
Mr. President, you can use your pen to sign legislative acts passed by the Congress into law, or to veto such acts (though your veto is subject to a possible override). You have no authority to rule by executive order. I repeat: We have a Constitution.