Last week the House of Representatives passed the Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law Act, of ENFORCE the Law Act (seriously, do they have someone whose job it is to come up with painfully ridiculous acronyms in Congress?). Jacob Sullum notes the hypocrisy:
While the bill’s name is ridiculous and its mechanism is dubious, the basic premise of its supporters, almost all of whom are Republicans, is correct: As the House Judiciary Committee’s report on the bill puts it, Obama has engaged in a “pattern of overstepping [his] constitutional bounds.” But so did his Republican predecessors—a fact the report seems designed to obscure.
“Although President Obama is not the first president to stretch his powers beyond their constitutional limits,” the committee’s Republican majority says, “executive overreach has accelerated at an alarming rate under his Administration.” That claim is hard to assess, since the report barely acknowledges prior presidents’ abuses.
And here’s the most absurd part: The bill makes virtually no mention of the vast growth of executive power that stems from the war on terror and other alleged national security concerns, which is the primary source of the problem.
Partisanship likewise helps explain why the committee report explicitly eschews discussion of presidential abuses justified in the name of national security. Those include some of Obama’s most troubling power grabs, such as routinely collecting innocent people’s phone records, going to war without congressional authorization, detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial, and killing people he unilaterally identifies as enemies of America. But as Bush showed, national security is a bipartisan excuse for ignoring the law.
Like fiscal responsibility, Republican concerns over executive power magically disappear when a Republican is in office only to appear again when a Democrat moves into the White House. The Democrats aren’t much better, unfortunately. What minimal resistance there was to the growth of the national security state when Bush was in power has diminished with the election of President Obama. Now that Dennis Kucinich is gone, only Ron Wyden puts up even token resistance. The party leaders, like Dianne Feinstein, manage to get their dander up over CIA spying on them but are more than happy to defend the CIA’s spying on everyone else.