Trump's opportunity to restore constitutional balance

Posted January 19

Tomorrow, Donald Trump will be sworn is as the 45th president of the United States. I am, admittedly, a little nervous. I’m not sure quite what to expect from a Trump presidency, except that I’m quite confident that it will be a tumultuous one, full of sound, fury, controversy and confrontation. So how will history judge a Trump presidency? Who knows. Given the strong opinions swirling around Trump — both positive and negative — it will be difficult to objectively assess Trump’s legacy until years, perhaps decades, after he leaves office.

In the coming months, there will be fierce national debates over Obamacare, immigration, trade, taxes and a dozen other issues of huge import. There is a lot at stake, and these debates will dominate the headlines (and probably this column). But I think Trump’s long-term legacy could hinge on how successful he is at reversing the damage President Obama has done to our constitutional form of government. Trump can accomplish this by doing the following five things:

First, Trump should immediately issue his own executive orders to unwind the dozens of executive orders Obama crafted to further his progressive policies over the past several years. It is not the prerogative of the president of the United States to both write and execute the laws of this country. By reversing Obama’s executive orders, Trump can quickly and efficiently signal that legislating is Congress’ job.

Second, Trump should nominate a new Supreme Court justice who is committed to sustaining, defending and safeguarding core constitutional frameworks, including — especially — the separation of legislative from executive powers. During the campaign, Trump took the unprecedented step of publishing a list of justices that he would choose from to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. It is an excellent list, and he should select his nominee from that list (after he adds Sen. Mike Lee’s name).

Third, Trump should work directly with Congress to drive his policy agenda. By achieving his policy aims through the legislative process, not only will Trump be executing his office as intended by the Constitution, he will be much more likely to enact lasting reforms.

Fourth, Trump should look for every opportunity to rebalance federal power back to the various states. For decades, political power has evaporated from the states and has concentrated in Washington, D.C. Not only has this concentration of power violated the plain language of the 10th Amendment, it has stifled policy development and innovation at the state level. Trump, with congressional support, could start this process by block-granting existing Medicaid, transportation and education funds back to the states.

Fifth, Trump should demand that Congress pass the Reins Act. The Reins Act is legislation that requires Congress to approve, on an up or down vote, any new executive branch rule or regulation with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more. For years, Congress has delegated much of its legislative authority to the executive branch through overly complex or frustratingly vague legislation. Executive branch agencies continually generate new rules and regulations to interpret and implement poorly drafted federal statutes. Most of these rules and regulations are minor, but some of them cause significant market disruption clearly not intended by Congress. The Reins Act would give Congress veto power over future executive branch overreaches, helping restore the federal balance of powers.

If Trump is able to accomplish these five things, he could have a lasting, positive impact on the future of our republic. We need to restore Congress to its rightful place as the first branch of government, and Trump can help make this happen.


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