Despite all their cries that President Obama violates the Constitution here, there and everywhere, the House has passed a bill with a blatantly unconstitutional provision. H.R. 4870, which is a defense spending bill, also attempts to strip President Obama of his authority over detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
The 2012 Republican Party platform emphasized making both Congress and the office of the President “Constitutional.” It specifically lauded House Republicans for that effort with the following nonsense:
“We salute Republican Members of the House of Representatives for enshrining in the Rules of the House the requirement that every bill must cite the provision of the Constitution which permits its introduction. Their adherence to the Constitution stands in stark contrast to the antipathy toward the Constitution demonstrated by the current Administration and its Senate allies by appointing “czars” to evade the confirmation process, making unlawful “recess” appointments when the Senate is not in recess, using executive orders to bypass the separation of powers and its checks and balances, encouraging illegal actions by regulatory agencies from the NLRB to the EPA…”
The Republican Party seems to think that “checks and balances” means that Congress holds all the power and the President has none (some Democrats seem to think this, too). Sections 8107 and 8108 specifically prohibit any federal funding for the transfer or release of detainees at GITMO, Section 8139 prohibits funding for dealing with prisoners held at Parwan, Afghanistan, and Section 9015 requires the Secretary of Defense to give Congress detailed spending plans if he wants to use more than 15% of them, and none of those funds can be used for prisoners at Parwan, either. These are among the sections that the White House strongly objects to, because they take away his authority to manage the prisoner populations at GITMO and Parwan, which are within the scope of his Constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.
Even Charles Krauthammer acknowledged that Obama, as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, has broad discretion over how to handle prisoners of war, which the detainees at Parwan and GITMO are. But Congress wants full control over these two camps, and they’re willing to breach Article II of the Constitution to do it.
So who’s the tyrant? Contrary to what the GOP likes to complain about, most of what Obama has done is somewhere within his realm as the president. Furthermore, people are angry with Obama because he promised to close GITMO and he hasn’t, but his statement about what he objects to in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 says that he’s calling on Congress, again, to lift their restrictions on GITMO so that we can transfer the remaining prisoners and close the place altogether.
If we have any tyrants in our government, they’re actually in Congress, not the White House. In their overwhelming fear of a Democratic president becoming a tyrant, they’re trying to pull authority away from the office of the President and give it to themselves, against the Constitution. They keep talking about how Obama needs to stick to the Constitution, but they’d do well to take their own advice.