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Right Turn
Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 09/09/2012

The latest dereliction of duty: The sequestration law

Friday was the day by which under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama the White House needed to detail the defense cuts it would make to comply with the upcoming sequestration under the Budget Control Act. But that’s messy in the middle of an election campaign in which voters might see what plants, bases and production lines might be slashed. So Obama ignored the law. No list. It’s not clear whether he will ever follow the law.

His Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, blasted the president: “A year ago, Barack Obama set in motion the sequestration process that is leading to imminent disastrous cuts in our military might. The President is required by law to tell the American people how he would implement these cuts. But he has chosen to ignore the deadline for doing so. The American people have had enough of evasion and enough of finger pointing. They just want answers. Secretary of Defense Panetta has said these cuts will be devastating to our national security and our economy. It’s time the President stops stonewalling, stops dismantling our military, and starts providing answers.”

Nevertheless the administration has given no date certain when it will comply. “It’s complicated,” says the administration:

Sequestration “doesn’t allow us to prioritize,” [Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank] Kendall said, according to a Pentagon release. “It doesn’t allow us to find the things that are least important to us. It doesn’t allow us to avoid some of the damage that will be done by this kind of a mechanism.”
Kendall said any budget-cutting plan the Pentagon could prepare would be irrelevant.
“If we have a budget, there are roughly 2,500 lines in that budget, and we have cut each of them [by] about 11 percent,” Kendall said.
And because sequestration was designed to hit Defense and non-defense agencies’ budgets equally, other agencies also would likely face roughly 11 percent cuts next year.
The cuts would even hit the Pentagon’s war-fighting operations in Afghanistan, Kendall said. And they would be in addition to $487 billion in cuts the department is already making over the next decade. . . .
“The administration has repeatedly ignored requests from Congress for sequester information, even as top officials admit the defense cuts the White House demanded — in an effort to ensure the president wouldn’t face another debt limit vote before the election — would jeopardize our national security,” [House Speaker John] Boehner’s office said. “Now it’s time for President Obama to obey the law he signed and tell the American people how he plans to implement (or replace) these devastating cuts.”
All in all, sequestration could lead to 270,000 lost federal jobs throughout the government, and the furloughs of thousands more.

Wait. 270,000 lost jobs? We are already hemorrhaging workers from the workforce who can’t find jobs. So why in heavens would we add to that?

Moreover, it is apparent that the law is nonsensical. How does the Pentagon cut 11 percent of an aircraft? No wonder the president doesn’t want to follow the law; it would be apparent that it is noxious and unworkable. Voters might even wonder why he has refused to follow the House’s lead in coming up with a sensible alternative package of cuts.

It should be deeply troubling to have a president who repeatedly acts in contravention or direct conflict with the law. He signed the sequestration law; he has no authority to refuse to comply with it. He doesn’t like the immigration laws? Sorry, but he lacks the power to unilaterally alter the law. He thinks that welfare waivers should be handed out even if the law says that you can’t issue waivers? Too bad, he’s not permitted to alter the law. There is apparently no voice of restraint inside the White House. The president wants to do it? It’s done. L’état, c’est moi should be the motto on his Oval Office rug.

This is an unprecedented and downright dangerous pattern of executive contempt for the laws he has sworn to uphold. Think of the precedent he is now setting. Let’s see, the Americans With Disabilities Act is really burdensome, so the next president can simply offer employers across-the-board waivers. The Environmental Protection Agency lacks the power to exempt employers from a myriad of federal environmental laws, but the next president can announce he’s going to do it anyway. Hey, no need to repeal Obamacare, just don’t enforce any provisions.

Lawlessness by a chief executive for “good reasons” (enacting liberal policies that Congress won’t pass) should never be acceptable. Regardless of the ends, Congress, the media and the American people should not passively tolerate a president who considers his aims so noble that he need not follow the law (or uphold his constitutional obligations).

It’s a good thing there is an election. The voters and the oh-so-principled (not) media can decide if they want to have a president who adheres to the Constitution or to accept meekly the illegal and extralegal steps by a former law instructor who once upon a time accused President George W. Bush of “shredding” the Constitution.

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 09/09/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, law

 
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