Imperial presidents

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    Avram in MD

    For the past two decades, there has been overwhelming bipartisan support for consolidating power in the Executive Branch and de-legitimatizing Congress. George W Bush greatly expanded the powers of the Executive Branch. Barack Obama followed by governing via Executive Orders in order to short-circuit an oppositional Congress. Donald Trump campaigned on “Only I can fix this” and spoke like an autocrat, and now Joseph Biden governs with demagoguery, scapegoating those who disagree with him, and a tsunami of Executive Orders and mandates.

    Voters focus on the president as a problem solver, and vote for Congressional representatives and senators who will either be in lockstep with their party’s president, or who will seek to check the opposing party’s presidential agenda at every turn. Moderate, deal-making Democrats were winnowed away in primaries during the Second Gulf War, and moderate, deal-making Republicans were winnowed away in the wake of Tea Party protests. So now we have a barely functional Legislative Branch, and an Executive Branch that behaves like an elected monarchy.

    Does this bother anyone else? How can we as voters ensure that Congress, where we are best represented, becomes functional once again and can act as a true check on Executive powers regardless of which party sits in the White House?

    Reb Eliezer

    The filibuster has made the senate obstructionist, so if you want something done, you have no choice.


    Add to Avram’s excellent statement, the views of certain Justices to express support for what some would call an Imperial Presidency in areas of national security and foreign affairs and defer to the Executive Branch while simultaneously questioning the actions of Executive Branch Agencies in domestic regulation and showing less willingness to grant so-called “Chevron Deference” to their expertise and findings. Also, google the speech given by Former AG Barr at Notre Dame law school in 2020 where he voiced the most expansive view of Presidential Power of any modern AG.


    “Does this bother anyone else? ”

    It bothers me but I don’t think it is fixable at this time.

    Part of the problem I think is The whole structure of congress is antiquated, in my view. The senate is built on the idea that there are 13 equal colonies (today 50) so 2 votes each. This doesn’t feel true today, and feels anti-democratic. Why should my state with 19.5 million people have the same say as my neighbor with less than a fifth of our population (CT 3.6 million).

    Note I’m not actually asking, I understand, Historically why it was designed this way But the reality is that today When the Senate is split 50/50. The Democratic half represents 41.5 million more people (thats over 10% of the population).

    This seems unfair. The Presidency makes more sense (putting aside the electoral college which suffers from the same problem, but in most cases this distinction is irrelevant) .

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting mob rule is best, that the majority should have free reign period. Checks and balances are good, hopefully with time Political tempers may cool and the idea of Democratic lawmakers supporting Republican ideas and vice versa will not be as unthinkable as it is today. But for now when the President was elected by a clear majority , if the minority party says we will obstruct no matter what. The only way to govern is by fiat


    It has been happening since Theodore Roosevelt was president (stopped a little for Harding and Coolidge, but that’s it). This is one thing both parties are equally guilty of. There has also been a major shift of power away from state and local governments and to the Federal government. It has probably been very destabilizing, and to a certain extent explains the current radical polarization. I suspect if you brought some politicians from the 19th century to visit, they would being saying “I told you so”.

    A president who rules by decree reduces the utility of any politics other than the election of the president. Switching power to the Federal government means that which group of states has control allows them to go after policies that are absurd to the rest of the country. It means if the Feds oppose gas-powered cars, people in areas where electric cars aren’t practical are angry. Most of the “culture war” issues become “hot” since by definition a federal solution is being imposed on all states whereas in the past states had more options.

    Reb Eliezer

    ubi, your question is an old question. The solution was the Great Compromise where two houses were created in Congress, one with equal representation, the Senate and the other by population, the House.
    If the filibuster requires standing and talking as it used to be, there will be less filibuster.


    There is also a separate issue of the glacial pace of judicial review and issuance of decisions that allow Executive Orders to remain in effect until some District Court Judge finally issues some TRO or injunctive relief. The executive orders are frequently issued knowing they are patently illegal but designed for political messaging. The most recent instance was Biden extending a CDC public health emergency to justify an eviction moratorium.

    anonymous Jew

    GH, I dont recall your objection to local District Judges issuing national rulings to stymie Trump actions


    AJ: Actually, i did post in relation to one District Judge in the 6th Circuit imposing some national ban enforcement of an EPA ruling which was one of the better thought out WH orders at a time when the EPA itself couldn’t get any of its rulemaking out of OMB review.
    Overall, I think its a lousy practice in relation to either party in power but some district court judges feel compelled to act with national scope in anticipation of their circuits sitting on their the executive orders indefinitely. In Biden’s case, they tried to use an EO to undo one of the Trump-era immigration rules which had been done under a full notice and comment APA rulemaking and the and an Obama appointed judge struck it down and told them it also had to be undone via APA rulemaking.


    This was the matter of discussion between Jewish people and Shmuel, when they are asking for a melech and he warns them that it will cost them. People cling to authoritarians that can quickly solve problems. Not sure what can be done short of educating population in civics and davening.

    One example of proper approach was Trump refusing to resolve “dreamers” dilemma via executive action and throwing it back to Congress where it should be properly addressed. There was an attempt, it did not work, but the direction was proper.

    Avram in MD


    “if the minority party says we will obstruct no matter what. The only way to govern is by fiat”

    It’s a bit of the chicken and the egg, but I think part of the cause of obstructionism in Congress is because of the outsized importance placed on the presidency, and the resulting fear of what a president in the opposition party can do. Congress drafts and passes laws, but the credit is given to the president.

    Avram in MD


    “A president who rules by decree reduces the utility of any politics other than the election of the president.”


    Avram in MD

    anonymous Jew,

    “GH, I dont recall your objection to local District Judges issuing national rulings to stymie Trump actions”

    I don’t think she was objecting to the district court judges issuing injunctions. On the contrary, her complaint is that they don’t act fast enough to review obviously illegal executive orders, and her example was an EO issued by the Biden Administration.



    “ubi, your question is an old question”

    I didnt ask a question.

    In fact, since I was worried some might mistakenly think I was asking a question, I explicitly wrote ” Note I’m not actually asking,…” To make it clear that I was NOT asking a question

    anonymous Jew

    What i find amazing is the seeming lack of knowledge of prior history.
    1. Number of filibusters by Democrats during 4 years of Trump= 314
    2. Number of Republican filibusters during 8 years of Obama = 175
    3. Who eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominations? Democrat Harry Reid
    4. How many Trump nominated Supreme Court Justices were approved with less than 60 votes because Reid eliminated the filibuster? Three
    5. Who delivered a fiery defense of the filibuster in the Senate, saying its elimination would destroy the republic? None other than Sen Charles Schumer during the Trump years.
    6. Two weeks ago, while decrying filibusters, Schumer used one to kill a Republican bill.

    Speaking of the filibuster and the “voting rights bills” killed by the filibuster. The New York State Legislature just announced their redrawing of Congressional districts. Even Newsday, our local left of center newspaper, said this was gerrymandering at its worst. The goal was to eliminate 4 of the 8 seats currently held by Republicans.
    Two examples:
    The new CD3 runs thru 5 towns, 5 counties, 3 cities all of which are divided by a large body of water ( the Long Island Sound ).

    The new CD11, Nadler’s district, runs from the Upper West Side of Manhattan all the way down to the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.

    So, what it comes down to is that your view on filibusters and voting rights depends on which party is in power

    Reb Eliezer

    What about the standing filibuster?


    What’s better than being President? Who welds more power?
    A Speaker of the House who is above the law, and has been in DC since ’88 (where she was practically appointed). One could argue she is more powerful.
    And also, we have a Senate majority leader who has been in DC since 81, and a President who has been in DC since ’73.
    Maybe there could be a problem here.


    As Bill Clinton would say, “it depends on what you mean by STANDING”

    Some of these guys already seem to be half sitting/leaning on their shtenders when making a floor speech so the new rule might not be too much of a deterrent. The real challenge would be putting into Senate procedural language, the rules governing “bathroom breaks”.


    anonymous jew,

    Reid did not eliminate the filibuster for SCOTUS nominations. That was done by Republican Mitch McConnell.
    So the list should be:
    3. Who eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominations besides SCOTUS? Democrat Harry Reid
    3.5 Who eliminated the filibuster for SCOTUS nominations? Republican Mitch McConnell
    4. How many Trump nominated Supreme Court Justices were approved with less than 60 votes because Mitch eliminated the filibuster? Three

    It is not important the number of times that the filibuster was used. Nor the number of times it wasn’t used because the bill was withdrawn before being filibustered.
    What is important is what it was used for.


    Jackk: The office of the Senate parliamentarian has compiled a really geeky but informative summary of the various proposals to modify Senate rules governing both motions to proceed, cloture and “extended debate” (proper term for a filibuster) that are accessible online. You will truly impressed with the level of detail on what constitutes “standing”. Many of those proposals were fashioned during the tenure of Sen Byrd as Majority Leader, probably the most skilled master of Senate procedure in modern times.


    RebE What about the standing filibuster

    When davening, we stand when we address Hashem, and sit when we address Jews (shma). So, standing filibuster is the one when the senator gave up on the chamber and calls on Hashem’s help

    Reb Eliezer

    AAQ, are you for real?

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