Curbing Obama Power Grabs

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The courts and Senate provide no checks and balances. Could a Republican Senate help?

You’ve got to admire the sheer audacity: Democratic Senator Mark Begich telling Alaska voters that he stood up to President Obama and fought for oil drilling and jobs in his state. Maybe he had a few chats.

But he certainly knew his concerns and opinions meant nothing, changed nothing, accomplished nothing. And then he voted 97% of the time with Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Dictator Harry Reid

Reid has kept over 300 bills bottled up, squelched almost all proffered Republican amendments on anything that did move, and used the “nuclear option” to end the longstanding 60-vote rule and wipe out any chance that Republicans could block Obama nominees or prevent the President from packing the vital DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The three new liberal judges on that court can now be counted on to defer to Mr. Obama’s policies and “agency discretion” on future arrogations of power.

Ditto for Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. She bellyached from time to time about offshore drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. But she also voted with Obama, Reid and their agenda 97% of the time, on everything from ObamaCare to Dodd-Frank to packing the DC Court.

The tally for other Democratic Senators running for reelection is revealing: Hagan (NC) 96% for the Obama agenda, policies and fiats … Merkley (OR) 96% … Pryor (AR) 90% … Shaheen (NH) 99% … Udall (CO) 99% … Warner (VA) 97%

Now they’re telling their constituents, next year will be different. Send me back to Washington, and next year I will stand up to Obama and support letting people keep their doctors and insurance, allowing more domestic drilling and pipelines, promoting economic recovery and fiscal responsibility, curbing the fraud and abuses at the Environmental Protection Agency, tackling Ebola and going after Islamic terrorists.

The IRS, Benghazi, Ebola and Middle East screw-ups and cover-ups seem to have set the tone. These Senators seem willing to say almost anything to get them past the elections. However, their votes have had real consequences for millions of Americans, especially the poor, minority, elderly and working classes they profess to care so much about. They should not escape accountability so easily.

A recent political ad by black Democrat-turned-Republican Louisiana State Senator Elbert Guillory lays it on the line. “While you dig through the couch looking for gas money,” Guillory says, Mary Landrieu “flies around in private jets funded by taxpayer dollars.” To her, “you are just a vote,” every six years.

Nor do liberal stereotypes fit. The four Democratic House and Senate candidates in Northern Virginia are all well-off, middle-age white guys. Republican candidates include one middle-age white dude, plus two working moms and a black man – who’s also Jewish and an 8-year Marine Corps veteran.

Few of us have any personal animosity toward any of these Democrat Senators. They’re all amiable people. But as President Obama himself says, “my policies are on the ballot, every single one of them.” Those policies have been dragging this country down, and as long as Harry Reid maintains his iron grip on the Senate, there can be no checks and balances or budgetary constraints on the Obama policies.

Messrs. Reid and Obama have made it clear that they have no interest in working with Republicans. Indeed, the President prefers Saul Alinsky tactics of community agitation and interest group divide-and-conquer. He disdains democratic processes and bipartisan compromises, and much prefers to simply legislate, regulate and dictate from the White House and Executive Branch – ignoring or rewriting the clear language of laws and our Constitution whenever and however necessary.

The Train of Abuses and Usurpations gets longer by the week. Environmental Protection Agency actions alone could place virtually all our land, air, water, energy and economy under the control of regulatory ideologues, working closely with radical Big Green activists, billionaires and “charitable” foundations.

Climate. As the planet refuses to cooperate with computer models and White House fear mongering, the EPA simply ignores all contradictory studies and evidence – and continues to operate under assumptions that: carbon dioxide levels dictate climate change; natural forces are irrelevant’ America can easily replace the fossil fuels that provide 82% of its energy; skyrocketing energy prices will have no effect on the economy, jobs or human health and welfare; and slashing America’s CO2 emissions will make a difference, even though China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Poland and other nations refuse to do likewise.

Of course, the real goal was never to stop climate change. It was always to control and “fundamentally transform” our nation’s energy, economic, social and legal structure and institutions, regardless of costs.

Water. Proposed rules are so broadly written that they would cover nearly all “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), based on assertions that they would eventually end up in “navigable” waters: rivers, rivulets, lakes, groundwater, stock ponds, occasional puddles and dry creek beds. In the process, they would also control land use activities on farms, forests and other private property. Friendly, collusive lawsuits by radical environmentalists would further expand this EPA jurisdiction.

Ozone. Almost every US county meets current 2008 ozone standards. Proposed regulations would render the vast majority of them “nonattainment” areas, subject to severe restrictions on economic growth. Even EPA says the rules would cost $100 billion a year. The National Association of Manufacturers puts the cost at $270 billion annually. The impact on people’s jobs, incomes, health and welfare would be huge.

Even bigger ambitions. Clearly not satisfied with these unprecedented usurpations of power, EPA has also launched major “sustainable development,” “environmental justice” and “clean power” initiatives. These deliberately vague and infinitely malleable terms would further expand the agency’s mission far beyond anything previously imaginable or contemplated by EPA’s authorizing legislation.

Other agencies are busily writing new regulations governing Christmas lights, automobile and refrigerator coolants, endangered species guidelines that would block ranching, drilling and pipeline projects, while giving bird and bat-killing wind and solar projects carte blanche – and other activities.

Collusion. A recent Senate Minority Staff Report explains in frightening detail how far-left billionaires, foundations and environmentalist groups actively collude with EPA managers and regulators. EPA in turn happily recruits high-level eco-activists, who then help lobby, guide and control agency policies – and channel millions of taxpayer dollars to pressure groups that promote those policies. The agency also engages in frequent friendly lawsuits with activists, to make policies even more extreme.

A Republican Senate will not guarantee the kind of change needed to end these excesses and get the nation’s economy and employment back on track, especially if certain GOP members remain timid or recalcitrant. (Perhaps DePuy or Stryker could donate some spinal implants?) Presidential vetoes could also pose problems, although strong leadership could often craft bipartisan veto-proof majorities.

House and Senate hearings could grill agency heads under oath – and investigate potential fraud in developing regulations, unethical collusion between agencies and activists, improper agency funding of activist groups, sweetheart lawsuits and other activities. These investigations could form the basis for budget reductions and restrictions, legislation to end mission creep or block specific regulations, and laws requiring congressional approval of “major” regulatory actions costing billions of dollars.

Such actions would also help restore our tripartite system of government. Right now, the Executive Branch is riding roughshod over businesses and citizens alike, and the courts merely rubberstamp agency decisions. Meanwhile, the Legislative Branch is little more than an appendix that writes overly broad laws giving unaccountable bureaucrats unfettered discretion to impose an increasingly intrusive, expensive leftist, centralized government agenda. No wonder our nation is foundering on the rocks.

The upcoming elections could help get the USS United States back on course. Let’s hope they do.

About Author

PAUL DRIESSEN is senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), public policy institutes that promote environmental stewardship, the enhancement of human health and welfare, and personal liberties and civil rights. He writes and speaks frequently on the environment, energy and economic development, malaria eradication, climate change, human rights, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. His articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines and on news and opinion websites in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Peru, Venezuela, South Africa, Uganda, Bangladesh and many other countries. Driessen’s book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death, documents the harm that restrictive environmental policies often have on poor people, especially in developing countries, by restricting their access to life-enhancing modern technologies. It is in its second US printing and has also been published in Argentina (Spanish), India (English), Germany (German) and Italy (Italian). He was editor for Energy Keepers - Energy Killers: The new civil rights battle, by CORE national chairman Roy Innis; Rules for Corporate Warriors: How to fight and survive attack group shakedowns, by Nick Nichols; and Creatures, Corals and Colors in North American Seas, by Ann Scarborough-Bull. His report, Responsible Progress in the Andes, examined ways that modern mining operations can bring jobs, infrastructure, and improved safety and pollution control practices to poor communities. Driessen’s studies and analyses have also appeared in Conserving the Environment (Doug Dupler, editor), Resurgent Diseases (Karen Miller, Editor) and Malnutrition (Margaret Haerens, editor), all part of the Thomson-Gale “Opposing Viewpoints” Series that is used in many high schools and colleges; Redefining Sovereignty: Will liberal democracies continue to determine their own laws and public policies, or yield these rights to transnational entities in search of universal order and justice? (Orin Judd, editor); and other publications. He played a lead role in the “Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now” campaign, an international effort that restored the use of DDT to African and other malaria control programs, and served as an advisor to the film “3 Billion and Counting,” examining how environmentalist and EPA campaign against DDT had devastating impacts on families in poor developing countries. Paul received his BA in geology and field ecology from Lawrence University and a JD from the University of Denver College of Law, before embarking on a career that also included tenures with the United States Senate, U.S. Department of the Interior and an energy trade association. He has produced documentary films about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, immigration through Ellis Island, and marine habitats beneath offshore oil production platforms. Driessen is also a frequent guest on radio talk shows and college campuses, and at business and public policy forums. He participates in energy, health and environmental conferences, and was active in the Public Relations Society of America, where he served as Washington, DC chapter newsletter editor and in the Social Responsibility Section.

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