It Matters Who Decides

by Conor Friedersdorf

If the people's representatives won't pass climate change legislation, the Obama Administration may just go it alone:

In a statement posted on its website late Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it is moving unilaterally to clamp down on power plant and oil refinery greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for developing new standards over the next year. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change.

James Joyner has the same reaction that I do:

Presidents have, since the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, made unilateral decisions arguably outside the scope of their Constitutional power and dared Congress or the Courts to stop them. TheĀ  practice has increased over time and been made easier by Congress having delegated much of its power to Executive agencies. The consequence is an administrative state where the elected representatives of the people have a mostly reactive role, acting to check these agencies, rather than making affirmative decisions on national policy.

Regardless of how Congress acts, I'd prefer if for that body to determine how the US responds to the real phenomenon of climate change caused by greenhouse gasses. Of course, I'm an extremist who thinks that the legislature should even decide which countries our military drones are permitted to drop bombs on.

In both cases, when I hear what amounts to "the Constitution is not a suicide pact," I think to myself, "but disregarding its separation of powers might be."