Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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Whether it’s gun control, health care reform, climate change, or a host of other issues, President Barack Obama does not follow the law if it conflicts with his policy preferences. While Obama is not unique in this regard, he has taken ignoring the oath U.S. presidents take to uphold and faithfully execute the Constitution and the laws of the United States to a whole new level.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court set aside the Obama administration’s far-reaching Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations targeting mercury and other emissions from coal-fired power plants.
When EPA initially drafted the rule early in the Obama’s first term, it considered mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants as a “proxy” for limiting carbon dioxide. After it became clear Congress would not pass cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions, the White House decided to act administratively to limit greenhouse gases through the backdoor.
The Supreme Court ruled in Michigan v. EPA the agency should have taken into account the cost to utilities, consumers, and others before deciding to implement the regulation. EPA’s failure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis violated the Clean Air Act, the court ruled.
Writing for the majority, the late Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars of economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”
Essentially giving the Court what amounts to the middle finger, in December 2015 the EPA decided to enforce the rule despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. It made this decision after a perfunctory review was released stating the benefits of the rule exceed the costs, a conclusion it came to by narrowly defining what counts as “costs” — ignoring the loss of human life, job losses, and lost income its own calculations indicate would occur.
More recently, contrary to the law, the U.S. State Department announced it had delivered $500 million to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF), a program intended to bribe the leaders of developing countries not to use fossil fuels.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were outraged by this announcement, since Congress had not approved funding for GCF.
Heather Higginbottom, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, said under questioning during a committee hearing that the GCF funds were diverted from the department’s Economic Support Fund. “Did Congress authorize the Green Climate Fund? No… We’ve reviewed the authority and the process under which we can do it, and our lawyers and we have determined that we have the ability to do it,” said Higginbottom.
There’s just one little problem: Congress alone is constitutionally delegated the power of the purse, not State Department lawyers or the president.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) called the GCF funding a “blatant misuse of taxpayers’ dollars” and alleged the Obama administration violated the 1982 Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits the use of funds for programs not authorized by Congress.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), also outraged by the State Department’s action, told Fox News, “Lawyers cannot replace the constitutional requirement that only Congress can appropriate money.”
In late April 2016, 27 Senate Republicans — citing a 1994 law that prohibits the United States from providing funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes as a member country a nation not recognized as a sovereign state by the United States — demanded the Obama administration cut off all funding for the GCF and the millions in annual funding given to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Senate Republicans argue because Palestine, which is not recognized as a sovereign country by the United States or the United Nations, recently joined the UNFCCC, the United States must stop funding the GCF.
In the letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Barrasso, who led the lawmakers to write the letter, said, “The administration needs to obey the law, and we’re going to do everything we can to enforce it.”
Citing the law, Obama cut off funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 after it admitted Palestine as a member.
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law, told the Hill the argument made in the Republican Senators’ letter puts the Obama administration in a difficult situation.
“The president is committed to climate change, and the president is also opposed to Palestinian unilateral statehood efforts at the UN, and the U.S. clearly does not regard Palestine as a state, per its official stated foreign policy,” said Kontorovich to the Hill. “It would be a step beyond anything that’s been done before for the administration to ignore this provision, because it’s the power of the purse.”
It’s time for Obama to do some soul searching and ask not what he can do in pursuit of his climate obsession, but rather what he should do under the existing laws he swore to uphold. If he’s honest about this, he will stop funding the UN’s climate boondoggle and rescind blatantly illegal regulations he has imposed on the power industry.
I’m not holding my breath.