An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — Given President Barack Obama’s propensity for taking the law into his own hands, it would be nice for the attorney general to remind him of limits to that in the Constitution. Eric Holder, the incumbent attorney general, does not seem to have done that.
Neither would Loretta Lynch, Obama’s chosen successor for Holder.
That makes Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s decision to vote against confirmation of Lynch the right one.
Capito, R-W.Va., told our reporter this week a recent meeting with Lynch helped convince her the nominee is qualified – technically, at least – to serve as attorney general. But, added Capito, “her views on the president’s executive actions are troubling to me … Her answers did not assure me that she would be (an) independent voice to stand up for separation of powers.”
Capito and West Virginia’s other senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, differ on Lynch. Manchin has called for the Senate to confirm her as attorney general.
While the two senators have stressed they work well together to pursue West Virginians’ best interests, Manchin is wrong on this one. Capito is right to be concerned about the advice Lynch would, if confirmed, give to the president.
Most presidents have chosen Cabinet members both loyal to them personally and supportive of their agendas. Obama has a low tolerance for those who differ even a little bit with him. The revolving door of secretaries of defense under this administration makes that clear.
That makes it all the more important that the attorney general be fearless in cautioning Obama about limits to his power.Time and time again, Obama has abused the separation of powers doctrine. About a year ago, he made his strategy clear. “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” he said, adding, “And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions …”
Presidents indeed have a great deal of latitude in using executive orders to get things done. But they cannot constitutionally contravene existing laws. Obama has done that repeatedly through actions such as unilaterally changing provisions of the national health care law.
Senators of both parties should be concerned about that and should throw partisanship aside to stand up for separation of powers – one of the key guarantees of the liberties Americans enjoy.