Rather than using her majority in the House to pass new legislation, Speaker Pelosi punted on what ought to be the primary responsibility of Congress — passing a law. Instead, she and her team called on the White House to unilaterally address the issue: “Action is needed, and it must come from the Administration.” And on the Senate side, Majority Leader Schumer simply pointed to the protest staged by first-term member Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo) in which she slept overnight on the steps of the Capitol as key to convincing the administration. “You are great,” Schumer pronounced. “You did this. One person did this!” So much for the Senate taking on its intended constitutional role as the great deliberative body. So much for the Congress acting as a check on presidential assertions of authority outside of the law.
Complaints about “the imperial presidency” more often than not are tied to presidential assertions of authority in foreign policy and national security. But, in reality, there is just as much a case to be made that, in recent years, the unilateral issuance of domestic rules, regulations, and executive orders is no less problematic. The modern presidency has immense power — often with good reason. But that is why it is even more incumbent that “being presidential” must be understood to include a faithful adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution.