US courts reassert limits on power of Executive Branch

July 4, 2016
Executive power in the US encountered limits-of all things-during the third full week of June.

Executive power in the US encountered limits-of all things-during the third full week of June.

First a federal district court judge in Wyoming ruled the Bureau of Land Management lacks authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian land.

Then the Supreme Court let stand a lower-court rule blocking President Barack Obama's program to shield millions of undocumented immigrations from deportation.

It was a good week for separation of powers.

Obama overworks executive action. He says Congress forces him to rely on the infamous pen and phone because it won't do his bidding.

Someone should remind the former constitutional professor that Congress wasn't designed to bow to presidential will.

In the frac-case ruling, Dist. Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote, "Regulation of an activity must be by congressional authority, not administrative fiat."

The issue, he said, was whether Congress gave the Department of the Interior, of which BLM is part, authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

"It has not," Skavdahl ruled.

In the immigration case, the Supreme Court upheld an appeals-court ruling with an evenly split decision.

The program in question deferred action on deportation of immigrants illegally in the US who are parents of American citizens or of lawful permanent residents.

Twenty-six states challenged the plan. The appeals court had affirmed a ruling that the administration violated notice requirements and added a broader ruling that it exceeded statutory authority.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Supreme Court "vindicated" Article I of the Constitution, which reserves to Congress all legislative powers.

"The president is not permitted to write laws," Ryan said. "Only Congress is."

The imperious Obama won't be chastened, of course. But his presidency is almost over.

Because tests of Executive Branch authority aren't likely to subside when Obama leaves office, a stiffening of the judicial spine is welcome.

Both leading presidential contenders seem to share Obama's dangerously expansionist tendencies with powers of the office.

So their honors have provided a needed reminder: The Constitution still applies.

About the Author

Bob Tippee | Editor

Bob Tippee has been chief editor of Oil & Gas Journal since January 1999 and a member of the Journal staff since October 1977. Before joining the magazine, he worked as a reporter at the Tulsa World and served for four years as an officer in the US Air Force. A native of St. Louis, he holds a degree in journalism from the University of Tulsa.