The Washington Post recently reported on several senators who are trying to bolster their 2014 reelection bids by swaying the vast federal bureaucracy. The senators, all Democrats, include Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), and John Walsh (Mont). They’ve used various methods to ask the Obama administration to reduce federal regulation.
“You have to bang on their heads pretty hard,” Sen. Begich says. “It takes a constant education.”
These lawmakers, and others who seek to influence the federal bureaucracy, are acting logically, of course. Much of the action these days isn’t in the halls of Congress; it’s in the alphabet soup of executive branch agencies and independent regulatory bodies that proliferate across Washington.
But it’s the lawmakers who seem to need an education. “The Constitution declares that the Congress may exercise only those legislative powers ‘herein granted,’” warns federal judge Douglas Ginsburg. “That the power assigned to each branch must remain with that branch, and may be expressed only by that branch, is central to the theory.”
Thus the Constitution gives lawmakers—not administration bureaucrats—the exclusive power to make law.
For example, the Post writes that Sen. Landrieu “remains at odds with the administration” over the way the Environmental Protection Agency proposes to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act. But the Clean Act is a law, and it means what Congress says it means. If lawmakers were vague in their wording, Landrieu should strive for a legislative fix.
The Post also writes that Sen. Shaheen is “seeking help from HHS to alter standards to guarantee a ‘robust provider network’ in her state’s exchange under the Affordable Care Act.” Again, it’s Congress that passed ObamaCare. If lawmakers don’t like it, they need to change the law—not spend time arguing with bureaucrats.
“More than at any other time in our history, we are less and less governed by the rule of law, hammered out in legislative deliberations as the Founders intended, and more and more governed by the rule of regulation,” Heritage’s Bob Moffit writes. “We are subject to edicts promulgated by administrators—persons we do not know and will never know, persons protected by civil service law and tenure who are not accountable to us and will never be accountable to us.”
An election year would be a great time to begin restoring proper constitutional order. Senators don’t have to turn, hat in hand, to federal bureaucrats. They can try to legislate instead.