Segments in this Video

Introduction: The President Has Usurped the Constitutional Power of Congress: (07:03)


Moderator John Donvan introduces Nicholas Rosenkranz and Jeffery Rosen. Rosen discusses holding the debate at the National Constitution Center. Rosenkranz outlines parts of the Constitution.

Debate "Housekeeping" (07:10)

Donvan frames the debate on whether or not the president has usurped the constitutional power of Congress, instructs the audience to vote, and introduces panel members.

For the Motion: Carrie Severino (05:53)

Judicial Crisis Network Chief Counsel and Policy Director, Severino states that the president is trying to bring more power to the executive branch without going through Congress. She explains presidential authority and cites domestic examples of President Obama usurping congressional power.

Against the Motion: Adam Cox (06:02)

New York University School of Law Professor, Cox states the president is an important policy maker; the question is why the president has the power he possesses. He cites examples where Congress delegated power to the executive branch to address modern problems; Congress can take away the power.

For the Motion: Michael McConnell (06:29)

Director of the Constitutional Law Center and Stanford Law School Professor, McConnell quotes from Posner's book on presidential power and an article in the New York Times. He provides examples of Presidents Bush and Obama breaching executive limits set by the Constitution and considers the impact of enforcement discretion.

Against the Motion: Eric Posner (06:37)

University of Chicago Law Professor, Posner states that our government system and the separation of powers has evolved since the writing of the Constitution because the world has changed. He cites examples of foreign operations, the use of Commander-in-Chief Power and the vesting clause, and two of President Obama's executive agreements.

"To Faithfully Execute" Laws (06:57)

Donvan summarizes the panelists' open statements. McConnell and Cox provide their expectations of the constitutional language. Panelists debate the "lawful status" of immigrants.

Chain of Legitimacy (03:46)

Severino cites examples of Obama usurping power by changing program deadlines. Cox counters that statutory deadlines are often included but complexities sometimes slow implementation. McConnell states a president cannot make changes to make implementation easier.

Subverting the Law? (03:28)

Posner states that Obama did not deliberately subvert the statute in changing Obamacare deadlines. Severino counters that "good intentions are not a substitute for constitutional law." Cox cites the Administrative Procedure Act.

Faithful Execution? (02:20)

McConnell states there was no technical reason to delay the Employer Mandate; not enforcing a law because of a political agenda is a problem. Posner cites immigration laws and the need to prioritize, and President Reagan's use of delegated policy-making authority.

QA: Taking Too Long to Make an Amendment (02:15)

Severino states that the intent of constitutional design is not to give the president broad authority because of a "speed bump"; Cox counters that is the reason the Supreme Court starting granting more power to the president.

QA: Implied Congressional Consent (04:00)

Donvan passes on a question and notes a request for a third choice on voting. McConnell states that Obama administration took the position that the war against ISIS is authorized by the AUMF but appropriations are not a substitute for authorization. Posner states there is frequent collaboration between the president and Congress.

QA: Is it Legal for Congress to "Abdicate" Power? (02:23)

Cox distinguishes between abdicating and delegating power; Congress has the authority to delegate. Severino cites the purpose of checks and balances; political parties may defend their party instead of the institution.

QA: Preventing a President from Overstepping Power (03:04)

McConnell states that the U.S. government is a system of checks and balances. The public has a powerful role in motivating the government system to care about structure. Posner states that institutional constraints dictate presidential behavior.

Do 21st Century Needs Justify a Shift in Power? (03:49)

McConnell states that government must operate according to the limits. Posner states you need a strong leader to run the national government. Severino believes government should have its powers limited by the Constitution. Cox cites two views about presidential limits.

Concluding Statement For: Severino (02:27)

The founding fathers created Constitution to preserve our liberty. Severino cites comments from presidential candidates regarding the use of executive orders. Obama did not restore the constitutional balance between Congress and the president.

Concluding Statement Against: Cox (01:31)

Each presidential administration has a mandate from the people and a set of priorities that may differ from the previous administration.

Concluding Statement For: McConnell (02:09)

Constitutional limits exist for a reason. Changes during the last 16 years are not a result of congressional delegation but presidents overstepping boundaries.

Concluding Statement Against: Posner (02:16)

Presidents use executive orders because Congress told them to regulate and take other actions. Posner cites the number of executive orders, signing statements, and recess appointments over the last 16 years.

Time to Vote (05:33)

Donvan instructs the audience to vote, thanks participants, introduces future debates, and highlights several ways to watch Intelligence Squared debates. He announces a petition to change the format of presidential debates to the Oxford style.

Audience Vote Results (01:10)

Pre-Debate - For: 29% - Against: 39% - Undecided: 32% Post-Debate - For: 38% - Against: 53% - Undecided: 9%

Credits: The President Has Usurped the Constitutional Power of Congress: A Debate (00:04)

Credits: The President Has Usurped the Constitutional Power of Congress: A Debate

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The President Has Usurped the Constitutional Power of Congress: A Debate

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Article I of the U.S. Constitution begins: "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States." It then enumerates these powers, which include the power to tax, declare war, and regulate commerce. "In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates," James Madison, one of the key architects of the Constitution, wrote in the Federalist Papers in 1788. "The legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex." More than two centuries later, however, some argue that modern U.S. politics and law tell a quite different story. With executive orders, administrative regulations, creative interpretations of federal statutes, and executive agreements with other nations, they claim, the president, not Congress, is in effect wielding the most potent legislative power. Indeed, the Supreme Court is currently poised to decide whether President Obama's unilateral immigration actions subverted Congress's authority and flouted his constitutional duty to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." Others, however, deny that either Obama or other recent presidents have exercised legislative power. Rather, they argue, these presidents have simply invoked well-established precedents to take executive actions to apply the law. Does Congress's legislative authority still predominate? Or is this the era of the imperial presidency? Has the president usurped the constitutional power of Congress?

Length: 87 minutes

Item#: BVL124514

ISBN: 978-1-63521-885-5

Copyright date: ©2016

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