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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The ENFORCE the Law Act

That's the name of a bill proposed by Trey Gowdy (R - SC). The bill would give Congress and/or the Senate the ability to sue the President when the House or Senate passes a resolution determining that the President or an administrative agency has "established or implemented a formal or informal policy, practice, or procedure to refrain from enforcing, applying, following, or administering any provision of a Federal statute, rule, regulation, program, policy, or other law in violation of the requirement that the President take care that the laws be faithfully executed under Article II, section 3, clause 5, of the Constitution of the United States."

At PrawfsBlawg, Howard Wasserman takes note of this bill and concludes that while Congress may be able to give itself standing to sue, it would still seem that these questions would be non-justiciable political questions. From what little I know about the political question doctrine, I am inclined to agree.

Also, I have observed politicians like Gowdy making accusations that President Obama is abusing his power by adopting policies of nonenforcement for some time now, but this is the first legislative action on the subject that I have seen. Some may argue that this move was precipitated by Obama's statement that he would "use his pen and his phone" to act where he could, even if Congress refused to legislate. But an alternate theory is that the body of the bill has been around for a very long time, and the bill's proponents only recently settled on the title, "the Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law Act of 2014" (which can be abbreviated to "ENFORCE").

We may never know for sure what theory of this bill's development is correct. But it is pretty safe to say that any interesting justiciability questions this bill raises will never be heard in the courts since the bill will almost certainly die in the Senate.

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