Our Founding Fathers deliberately set up three equal branches of government in order to establish a separation of powers to protect American citizens. Over the years, the legislative branch has slowly handed some of its powers to the executive branch, increasing the ever-growing powers of the presidency and its bureaucracy.
Since taking office in January, the 115th Congress has reined in some of the executive branch powers utilizing the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
As you may remember from the November 14, 2016 column, the CRA is an oversight tool Congress can use to overturn certain agency actions with special procedures under which to consider legislation to overturn rules, in the form of a resolution of disapproval. If a CRA resolution of disapproval is passed by both houses and signed by the President, the rule at issue cannot go into or continue in effect.
Since its inception during the Clinton Administration, only one CRA had been signed into law, but thirteen have been signed so far this year. I am encouraged by the passage of each CRA. Regulations rolled back under CRAs have been rules passed near the end of the Obama Administration including rules that hurt small businesses, hindered job creation, and in many cases, were poorly written.
By signing the bills that repealed or blocked these onerous rules, President Trump is making good on his promise to cut through burdensome regulations and reduce bureaucratic roadblocks. At the same time, Congress is returning power to the legislative branch.
Congress takes back its power when a CRA is passed because the regulation is set aside, and in the future, an agency cannot propose a substantially similar regulation without specific Congressional authority. Thus, the authority in these thirteen specific areas has been restored to Congress and where necessary Congress must act.
Too many times in the past, Congress has actually been willing to cede its authority to unnamed bureaucrats or the President so it wouldn’t have to take tough votes.
While I am glad Congress is exerting more authority in the regulatory process, I would also like to see Congress exert authority in regard to the authorization of the use of military force.
The Constitution makes the President Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, but gives exclusive power to declare war to Congress. This is spelled out in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Congress must defend this prerogative.
I acknowledge complex and dangerous predicaments we face in the world. Under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump, use of force to address challenges in the Middle East and against terrorists is justified based on two Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that are 15 and 16 years old.
Only approximately 20 percent of members who voted on these remain in the House of Representatives, meaning 80 percent of the current members never voted to authorize force in the Middle East.
Let’s not forget one Congress cannot lawfully bind another Congress. Having an AUMF that 80 percent of House members haven’t voted on, is more than a decade old, and passed two presidencies ago is both intellectually dishonest and inappropriate.
The current Congress should vote on a new AUMF. This AUMF should include a provision so it does not extend indefinitely into the future.
Major conflicts our country has been involved in, including the War Between the States, World Wars I and World War II, for us lasted less than five years. Yet the conflict in the Middle East has dragged on for more than a decade.
Even though in the 1400s the French and English fought in a conflict known as the 100 Years War, I don’t think our Founders envisioned the United States engaging in a war lasting 100 years. Particularly not one authorized by votes from only one Congress.
Although the definition of war has evolved, the American people should be able to count on their representatives to decide when, where and under what circumstances our country should enter into an ongoing military conflict. Again, Congress should not shirk from its responsibilities merely because it’s easier to look the other way and let the President handle it.
I believe you elected me to take tough votes. Although sometimes we may not agree, I am always willing to study an issue and make a decision. This is what Congress is supposed to do. I didn’t get elected to be part of an impotent debating society; I was elected to get things done. And I will do my darnedest to get things done for you.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.