Illinois Democrat Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. told The Daily Caller last week that President Barack Obama should bypass the U.S. Constitution to fix the economy by executive order. Jackson compared the current state of political affairs in Washington to the rebellion faced by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.
Jackson’s proposals – while not officially proposed in the form of a bill – raise interesting constitutional questions if enacted:
Barack Obama should declare a state of Rebellion: Jackson repeatedly suggested in The Daily Caller interview that the Congress of the United States was ineffectual and that, like Abraham Lincoln, Obama should declare them to be in rebellion. The U.S. Constitution has no provision for the chief executive to make such a declaration against a co-equal branch of government. For the president to make such a declaration would undoubtedly be considered an impeachable offense under the “high crimes” provisions of Article 2 Section 4.
Immediately Create Jobs: With over 15 million unemployed Americans, Jackson said the president should use executive authority and immediately create 15 million new jobs. Jackson told The Daily Caller such a program would cost approximately $804 billion and could be paid for over five years. Only the Congress can appropriate money for use by the federal government. Article 1 Section 8, and Article 1 Section 9 Clause 7 grants only the Congress the right to pay debts of the U.S. and provide for the general welfare of its citizens.
Jackson’s proposal included the creation of a civilian conservation corps, highway cleanup programs, and state and local projects. Many of these were done during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency, but all with the sanction and appropriation from Congress. The president possesses no independent ability to appropriate or spend federal funds without the express consent of the legislative branch of government.
Dealing with an Ineffective Congress: Jackson told The Daily Caller that “This congress is completely dysfunctional.” True or not, the U.S. Constitution has no provisions for the president to order Congress to comply with his agenda. In a republican form of government there are no parliamentary votes of confidence, nor are early elections possible for the whole Congress. Throughout U.S. history, many presidents have seen their legislative agendas stymied by an uncooperative Congress.
Dan McGinnis is a freelance writer, published author and former newspaper publisher. He has been a candidate, campaign manager and press secretary for state and local political campaigns for more than 30 years.