May 17 2019
On at least eight separate occasions between March 2008 and June 2012, President Obama told the American people he did not have the constitutional authority to unilaterally rewrite our nation’s immigration laws.
Then, on June 15, 2012, at the height of a presidential election, President Obama did exactly what he had previously swore he had no power to do: he unilaterally granted temporary amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants through his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And all this happened just months after Congress specifically rejected legislation that President Obama was now essentially implementing through executive fiat.
What made DACA such a violent breach of separation of powers, legal norms, and the rule of law, was that the program did far more than simply exercise legitimate prosecutorial discretion by choosing which illegal immigrants to prosecute and which illegal immigrants to leave alone. The program also went a step forward and directed the Department of Homeland Security to issue work permits to DACA recipients. No congressional statute gave President Obama this power.
Fast forward to January 2018, when Senate Democrats filibustered a temporary government spending bill that would have kept the federal government open for three weeks because the legislation did not include a permanent amnesty for DACA recipients. The federal government then shutdown causing almost 700,000 federal employees to be furloughed as many government agencies were closed.
But despite this shutdown, but the processing of work permits for Obama’s illegal amnesty kept right on going. It turns out the agency that issues the permits, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, isn’t funded by Congress. It is funded by application fees, so it can continue functioning on completely unaccountably on autopilot without any funding by Congress.
And this isn’t the only example of the executive branch using independent sources of money to bypass congressional accountability. The Department of Justice has a history of using money from settlements with major corporations, like Volkswagen and Goldman Sachs, to enrich progressive Democratic Party allies that no Republican in Congress would ever vote to send taxpayer money to. Former-Attorney General Jeff Sessions limited this practice in 2017, but a future Democratic president could easily turn the spigot on again.
That is why we so desperately need the Agency Accountability Act, a bill that would direct any agency that receives a fee, fine, penalty, or settlement to deposit that money into the general fund of the Treasury. Exceptions would be made for the Post Office, the Patent and Trademark Office, and payments to whistleblowers.
Article I, Section 9 states that “no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”
It is far past time we restored financial accountability the Constitution granted Congress over the executive branch. The Agency Accountability Act is a great place to start.