3/00 King Clinton’s Legacy
Without a doubt, the so-called “legacy” of Bill Clinton and his Administration will be lawlessness — his violation of the Laws of God and violation of the laws of men, specifically the U.S. Constitution.
One example of the latter is Clinton’s blatantly un-Constitutional Federal power grab, the American Heritage Rivers Initiative (AHRI), which he announced in his State of the Union address in 1997. Gun Owners Of America has joined with others to oppose the AHRI in a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
While this case does not directly involve firearms, the question of unchecked presidential powers extending from the hand that writes Executive Orders does concern every gun owner in the United States.
The title of this case is: Hon. Helen Chenoweth, Hon. Bob Schaffer, Hon. Don Young, and Hon. Richard W. Pombo, v. William J. Clinton, President.
The stated purpose of the AHRI is to designate certain rivers as “Heritage Rivers” to “help communities alongside them revitalize their waterfronts and clean up pollution.” To do this, President Clinton directed several executive agencies to implement this initiative. Then — believing, evidently, that he was elected King not President — he refused to wait for Congress to act issuing an Executive Order (13061) which implemented AHRI.
Commenting on this kind of clear abuse of power, and Clinton’s use of many other Executive Orders, one of his advisors, Paul Begala said: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.” But, of course, this is not kinda cool. This is patently un- Constitutional! And it is part of a protracted assault on the legislative powers that are given only to Congress under Article I of our Constitution.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said of Clinton: “This President has a propensity to bypass Congress and the States and rule by Executive Order; in other words, by fiat.” And the Los Angeles Times (7/4/98) has reported how King Clinton’s White House was using “a blitz of Executive Orders” to make progress on their domestic agenda “with or without Congressional help.”
Incredibly, in this same Times story, a Presidential spokesman, Jack Siewart, said: “We’ve been fairly unapologetic about finding ways to act where we’ve found that Congress has not acted.”
OK. So, what’s wrong with this picture? Well, the obvious. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution sets forth the specific process by which an act “becomes a law,” and details the respective roles to be played by the House, Senate and President. Thus, it is for Congress to decide whether to take a Presidentially-recommended “Measure” and translate it into a “Bill…Order, Resolution, or Vote.” The Constitution (Article 2, Section 3) expressly limits the role of the President in the lawmaking process to “recommending to their [Congress’] consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary or expedient….”
By initiating the AHRI, without any participation by Congress whatsoever, King Clinton has turned the Constitution upside down. He has completely nullified the vote of every member of Congress.
This case we are involved in is no small matter. The three branches of our national government were separated for the purpose of better securing liberty. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy has observed: “Liberty is always at stake when one or more of the branches seek to transgress the separation of powers.”
In another case, the high court said this separation of powers works to “assure full, vigorous, open debate on the great issues affecting the people.” It ensures “that legislation should not be enacted unless it has been carefully and fully considered by the Nation’s elected officials.”
In implementing the AHRI by fiat, however, King Clinton, with a vengeance, has said, in effect, to our people, represented by Congress: Drop dead! But, there is hope. The courts have not totally disregarded Clinton’s assault on Congress’ legislative authority.
In at least one case (Chamber of Commerce of the US v. Reich, D.C. Cir. 1996), a Presidential Executive Order (No. 12954) was struck down and invalidated for only the second time in history. Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court does this for the third time in history with this case.
If Clinton’s penchant for acting as if he were the Congress is not checked, gun owners may wake up soon to the news of an executive order to confiscate guns.