Drones, Constitutional Powers, Congress & An Imperial Presidency

For most of us, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) 13 hour filibuster was a breath of fresh air. However, one has to wonder, in this country, how we came to the point of needing to have a 13 hour talk on whether or not it’s ok for the President of the United States to target American citizens on U.S. soil for assassination when they are not engaged in any combative effort against the United States. Such is the days we live in under the Obama administration.

While it took weeks and numerous letters along with the filibuster to get an answer that should have been obvious to anyone halfway paying attention from the administration. While Attorney General Eric Holder did send a letter stating that the answer was “no,” to the question, “Does the President have the authority to use weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil?” The problem is two-fold. Holder did not define what he means by “combat. As constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley wrote last week, “one can easily foresee this or a future president insisting that an alleged terrorism conspiracy is a form of ‘combat’.”

Second, he failed to deal with an issue raised by Rand Paul concerning “imminent” and “immediate,” which is an issues since White House Press Secretary Jay Carney cited Holder’s letter, but then spoke of an imminent threat.

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Taking that break from the cuts known as “sequestration,” which are not genuine real cuts in the least, but rather less increases of money than the year before, but nevertheless, still increases, former Congressman Ron Paul spoke out on the issue. This is not his first rodeo both since he has been making this point for some time and it came to the forefront during the GOP primaries.

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Paul wrote in his Texas Straight Talk:

The administration’s outrageous response to the most serious Constitutional question of all — when a government can kill its own citizens — is clear evidence of an executive branch out of control.

Many of the drafters of the Constitution envisioned the presidency as an office with very limited powers, but even the most dedicated proponents of a strong presidency at the time would be shocked to see the concentration of power in the modern presidency.

Today the presidency is viewed as the center of the federal government, with each successive administration expanding the power of the executive at the expense of Congress and the people.

Ironically, some of the worst offenders are those who campaigned promising to reverse the power grabs of their predecessors. For example, candidate George W. Bush campaigned on a “humble foreign policy,” but as president he attacked Iraq based on his own administration’s lies and claimed the right to indefinitely detain anyone he deemed an “enemy combatant.”

In 2008 Barack Obama claimed he would reverse the previous administration’s constitutional abuses. However, instead of doing so, he has furthered them, drawing upkill lists” with John Brennan, now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, using drone strikes against American citizens not engaged in combat against the United States and killing innocent people in countries that we are not engaged in war with, such as Yemen. He continually is using the U.S. military abroad without consulting Congress and is supplying known terrorists to take over other governments such as Libya and quite possibly Syria. This is in addition to the fact that Obama’s on Department of Justice has declared that they don’t need clear evidence to kill Americans with drones.

Obama’s executive orders are numerous and far reaching as well, including the notable ones he issued in January infringing upon the Second Amendment and personal privacy. This is nothing more than an attempt to sidestep Congress which is the legislating body.

“Ultimately, the fault for the expansion of presidential power lies with Congress,” Paul writes. “Too many members of Congress are all too eager to avoid responsibility for controversial actions, preferring to “pass the buck” to the president. For example, Congress no longer declares war, but instead passes an “authorization of force” telling the president he can go to war when or if he wants!”

“On domestic policy,” Paul continues, “Congress passes large, vaguely-worded pieces of legislation and leaves it to the president and the bureaucrats to fill in the details. Many members of Congress score points with their constituents railing against “the faceless D.C. bureaucrats” while never mentioning that they voted for the law that gave the bureaucrats their power!”

To demonstrate the utter irresponsibility on both sides, Senate Republican leaders attempted to move Constitutional authority from themselves to the Executive Branch just before the sequester deadline. Politico reported:

Days before the March 1 deadline, Senate Republicans are circulating a draft bill that would cancel $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts and instead turn over authority to President Barack Obama to achieve the same level of savings under a plan to be filed by March 8.

The five- page document, which has the tacit support of Senate GOP leaders, represents a remarkable shift for the party. Having railed against Senate Democrats for not passing a budget, Republicans are now proposing that Congress surrender an important piece of its Constitutional “power of the purse” for the last seven months of this fiscal year.

As proposed, lawmakers would retain the power to overturn the president’s spending plan by March 22, but only under a resolution of disapproval that would demand two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to prevail over an Obama veto.

Since some speak of Obama overreaching his authority, what does it say when over and over he not only violates the authority he has, like he did with Libya, but when Congress openly attempts to grant him authority he does not have in the Constitution? This is somehow supposed to “restrain” him? I think not. Let’s call it what it is; being complicit in his activity and don’t talk to me about “infighting.” If we are unwilling to call those who claim to be on the side of the Republic and then they do things like this, then we are being nothing but hypocritical.

“Growth of executive power is a threat to liberty,” Paul concludes. “Fortunately, Congress can restrain the executive simply by exercising its constitutional powers. The American people must demand that Congress stop passing the buck on its foreign and domestic policy responsibilities. If the people care about liberty, they will demand their representative stand up to the imperial president. Let us hope last week’s filibuster will give Congress the backbone it needs to do its job.”

We can hope that a couple of senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have at least lit a fire under some to stand for what is right. Sadly, many of the old guard still aren’t getting it like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ). These need to be replaced with men who are not afraid of taking a stand.

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