House Votes to Restore Constitution

Following up on promises made during last year’s lame duck session, the House voted today to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and to prohibit spending to further President Obama’s illegal orders on immigration. The final vote was 236-191. The original DHS appropriations bill is here; the amendments that prohibit unconstitutional spending are here. The two principal amendments would bar DHS and other federal agencies from spending money to carry out a series of illegal orders by the Obama administration relating to immigration–a classic exercise of the power of the purse.

Predictably, Democrats howled. The New York Times headlined, “House Votes to Revoke Legal Protections for Millions of Immigrants.” The Times implies that the law provides protections that the House now wants to take away. Rather, the House is trying to restore the rule of law by barring execution of Obama’s unconstitutional orders.

Democratic Rep. Steve Israel sounded a common theme when he said, “For the first time in history, they are holding our security hostage to the politics of immigration.” But no matter how frequently repeated, this characterization is silly. Congress’s appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security provides the money from which the executive branch, absent prohibition, will carry out Obama’s decrees. So the DHS appropriations bill is the most appropriate vehicle to include prohibitions on illegal use of the money that Congress provides to DHS.

The Democrats seem to think that Republicans have a duty to disaggregate spending bills to make it as painless as possible for the Democrats to carry out unpopular filibusters. The source of such a duty is a mystery. Moreover, is that how Democrats acted when they controlled Congress? Of course not. As someone once put it, elections have consequences.

Today’s vote lays bare a scandal of the first order. Our Constitution does not give the president the power to enact legislation by decree, or to alter legislation previously passed by Congress. Yet that is precisely what Obama has done, by purporting to change the nation’s immigration laws by executive order. I am not aware of any respectable legal argument to the effect that what Obama has done is constitutional, and he himself has admitted publicly on something like 23 occasions that he does not have the power to do, legally, what he has now done. This may be both the most serious and the most blatantly unconstitutional usurpation of power in our history. And yet, to my knowledge not a single prominent Democrat has spoken up in defense of the Constitution. The Democratic Party has sunk lower than anyone would have thought possible, just a few short years ago.