Friday, April 15, 2011

Another Obama Power-Grab

We've all been busy watching Obama golf, travel, and occasionally taking a break by pretending to care about America going into bankruptcy. But take note, the liberal/left in him never rests. It's odd how socialists never seem to have enough czars, and our Bureaucrat-in-Chief is no exception. He objects to having his czars who control major portions of the American civil and financial vetted by the Senate.

Behold: The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act (PAESA). It ought to be called the "Let's Shortcut the Constitution Act." Progressives have been trying since early in the Twentieth Century to replace constitutional restraints on executive power with bureaucratic "efficiency." At every turn, Democrats create powerful agencies with nearly unlimited power and little Congressional oversight. Each year, the number of critical national decisions being made by more and more agency heads at the expense of one or both of the elected branches of government increases. But Obama's attempts to create and staff major agencies rival any prior efforts since FDR.

This effort is being snuck in during the budget debates in hopes that the public won't notice and the conservatives in Congress will be too busy with the budget to put up much opposition. Cabinet-level appointments still require Senatorial approval, but far too many agency appointments do not (most of the czars). And like most Progressive Democrats, Obama believes that the Constitution is an impediment to efficient governance.

A good example of what Obama intends is his recent attempt to squelch free speech with a "fairness" plan that would "increase localism and diversity" while "spreading opportunity among a larger pool of viewpoints and beliefs." In other words, kill talk radio and with a little luck, kill Fox News along with it. The Chairman of the FCC is not a Cabinet Member, so why should the Senate have any say whatsoever in who sits on the Commission? Well, any agency that large, affecting that many people, with that much freedom of speech at stake, should require major vetting at least. This act would remove the Senate entirely from the process.

How many and which agencies would be involved is still a closely-guarded secret. By pushing Congress in general and the Senate in particular out of the consideration of the burgeoning bureaucracies, the President is injecting pure politics into an area that is intended to be merely functionary. These agencies don't merely carry out orders, they create policy and implement it as determined by their particular czars. The EPA was intended to carry out the will of Congress and the people to clean up our air and water and protect the environment. But the agency grew and grew, and created policies that affect billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money while squelching American productivity. Does anybody doubt that the head of the EPA has more real power than, say, the Secretary of Commerce?

Very recently, Republicans and a few conscientious Democrats killed cap and trade and are on the attack over the Hail Mary pass to the EPA, which declared carbon dioxide a "poisonous" greenhouse gas that the EPA should regulate without Congressional approval. Yet it appears that one of the agencies that would be exempt from Senatorial appointment oversight under the new act would be the EPA.

The Founders intended that the President would make appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate (Article II, Section 2). It is reasonable to think that in the modern world, that would be impractical in such a large nation with such a large responsibility. So it developed that the Cabinet is always subject to Senate approval along with other "high-level" appointments, leaving the smaller agencies to the President as chief executive. The problem is that the number of agencies which affect major portions of American life and productivity have increased almost exponentially since the FDR administration. Congress has allowed these agencies to grow and multiply, largely from inertia and their own lethargy.

So in order to "end the backlog of unconfirmed appointees," Obama has used Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) as his stalking-horse to turn Congress's laziness and disregard for the Constitution into a virtue. Gosh, it's just so much work to have to listen to testimony and consider evidence regarding agency appointees, that what is needed is a restriction on the Senate's role. And it would be so much more efficient. True enough. It would have gotten Van Jones in place faster and would have made it less likely that he would ultimately be exposed as a communist.

Delegation of authority is a necessity in both government and business. Delegation of all authority is dereliction of duty. Add to that the fact that this proposed act is a direct attack on the separation of powers and co-equal branches of government, and you have a formula for Euro-style removal of the will of the people and empowerment of an unelected elite.

Schumer is working behind the scenes to pass S. 679, aka PAESA. It's a typical Progressive attempt to short-circuit the Constitution, but what is surprising is how many Republican co-sponsors he has managed to recruit. These are people the voters relied on to decrease the size of government, cut the number and power of agencies, and promote Congressional responsibilty. Here's the list of Republicans who are willing to surrender the power of the people to the whim of the executive and the tender mercies of the bureaucrats: Jon Kyl (Arizona), Richard Lugar (Indiana), Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Susan Collins (Maine), Scott Brown (Massachusetts), and Lamar Alexander (Tennessee).

Representative democracy is a messy process, fraught with waste and duplication. Nevertheless, "efficiency" is no substitute for republican governance, and given the long history of bureaucracies, this act might produce a more efficient appointment process while assuring that the extremely inefficient bureaucracies themselves will become even less efficient. If a job is important enough to require Presidential appointment, it's important enough to require Senate approval. If passed, this act would only prove that the President is lazy, but the Senate is even lazier.

Happy Tax Day!


Unknown said...

Obama is proving my point for me. He has decided he needs to appoint a new commission to study the budget and make recommendations. What is that? If at first you don't succeed, try another commission?

T_Rav said...

LawHawk, thanks for bringing this to our attention. I only hope the House Republicans take note of it as well.

Although, hey, maybe Obama's not really pushing for it, he's just wanting to get back at the GOP because "you think I'm stupid."

Unknown said...

T_Rav: LOL I couldn't believe that he asked that rhetorical question. I thought I heard loud voices on the wind responding with "damn right we think you're stupid."

AndrewPrice said...

We'll see how this goes. One of the riders in the budget deal involved eliminating some of the czar positions. So I think the Republicans are on to this. And if so, it's about time. This czar thing is the most unconstitutional anti-democratic thing our government has ever done and it needs to be stopped.

Tehachapi Tom said...

The FCC was established to over see the use of the air waves. That meant then to control who operated on which frequencies so as to not create a great cacophony of the radio frequency bands. Control what equipment could be used and assure that it did not create interference for others.

Never was it stated that the content was to be controlled except for unacceptable foul language.

In the 60s the first swear words that I heard was a song "God damn the pusher man".

The caliber of vocabulary acceptable has continued in a downward spiral ever since.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I agree wholeheartedly. I know a lot of people recognize that the czars and the bureaucracy are not good things, but I'm not sure how many realize just how serious a danger they are to our form of constitutional government. Conservatives do. Moderates might. Liberals don't care. Leftists and statists love it.

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: With your expertise in communications, you have seen how the FCC has completely altered its own existence. From regulator of frequencies (and now, bandwidth) to prevent overload and interference, to regulation of content and determination of who is deserving of a license and what philosophies should be allowed on the air. That's mission creep on steroids. Ditto for the EPA. We must get control of the necessary agencies and completely eliminate the rest. Oh, and send the czars back to Russia where they belong.

Unknown said...

After I composed this article, Obama talked about his budget-spending signing statement. He started out with: "Despite the law’s restrictions on 'czars,' I will construe the law not to interfere with “presidential prerogatives." If I remember correctly, among the many promises Obama lied about during the campaign, was the lie that he would never use signing statements as an end-run around Congress.

Tennessee Jed said...

A great post, Hawk. I was out yesterday and last night. Did get to see the KSO give an awesome performance of Beethoven's 9th, though, and featured performer, pianist Jeffrey Biegel. Now Biegel is an amazing pianist, but the work he played was a recently commissioned work: Promethius for piano and Orchestra by a Seattle composer named Bolcom. That work prompted me to think of a line from Gene Wilder's "Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" The gist of that line was "Is this incredibly brave or merely rotten?"

Seriously, I will contact Lamar Alexander to tell him what I think of this bill.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: You're forgiven. LOL I must admit that I do miss just hopping in a cab for the five minute trip to the War Memorial Opera House to hear the San Francisco Symphony. The Caliente Symphony Orchestra was going to peform last week, but somebody lost the clarinet.

At least you have a Senator you can contact who might even listen to you. Imagine me trying to convince Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein that the bureaucracy has too much power.

Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what's on your mind regarding the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011.

This bipartisan legislation which I have cosponsored would eliminate the need for the Senate to vote on roughly 210 full and part-time junior-level executive nominations. These positions are part-time advisory board or commission positions, or full-time positions that are not involved in policy making or already report to multiple senior-level Senate-confirmed officials.

This legislation would free up the Senate so that it can focus on our country's most urgent needs of reducing spending and debt, rather than on confirming hundreds of junior positions in a president's administration, like the public-relations officer of a minor department. The Senate will still continue to confirm about a thousand presidential nominees - nearly four times as many appointees as President Kennedy had - and I will continue to support legislative efforts to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans.

I'm grateful you took the time to let me know where you stand. I'll be sure to keep your concerns and comments in mind when the issues surrounding presidential appointees are discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.



Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - I pasted the contents of the email sent to me by Senator Alexander as a result of your article. Thought you might be interested in his "response."

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