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Rep. Trey Gowdy: How Does a President Rewrite the Constitution?


Rep. Gowdy's floor speech in favor of H.R. 4138, a measure to expedite the process by which Congress can sue the president for failing to enforce laws. "How does going from being a senator to a president rewrite the Constitution?” Gowdy asked. “We all swore an allegiance to the same document that the president swears allegiance to, to faithfully execute the law. If a president does not faithfully execute the law… what are our remedies?”


REP. TREY GOWDY: I’m going to read a quote, and then you tell me who said it. “These last few years, we’ve seen an unacceptable abuse of power, having a president whose priority is expanding his own power.” Any guess on who said that, Mr. Speaker? It was Senator Barack Obama. Here’s another one: “No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as a co-equal branch as the Constitution made it.” Senator Barack Obama. “What do we do with a president who can basically change what Congress passed by attaching a letter saying, ‘I don’t agree’ with this part or that part?” Senator Barack Obama. “I taught the Constitution for ten years, I believe in the Constitution.” Senator Barack Obama. And my favorite, Mr. Speaker: “One of the most important jobs of the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the executive branch on the power of the other branches, and I think the Chief Justice has been a little too willing and eager to give the president more power than I think Congress or the Constitution originally intended.”

So, my question, Mr. Speaker is, how in the world can you get before the Supreme Court if you don’t have standing? What did the president mean by that? When he looked to the Supreme Court to reign in executive overreach. If you don’t have standing, how can you possibly get before the Supreme Court. So my question, Mr. Speaker, is what’s changed? How does going from being a senator to a president rewrite the Constitution? What’s different from when he was a senator? Mr. Speaker, I don’t think there is an amendment to the Constitution that I’ve missed. I try to keep up with those with regularity.

What I do know is this, process matters. And if you doubt it, Mr. Speaker, ask a prosecutor or a police officer. As my friends on the other side of the aisle know, both of them are part of the executive branch. What happens when a police officer fails to check the right box on a search warrant application? The evidence is thrown out, Mr. Speaker! Even though he was well-intended. Even though he had good motivations. Even though he got the evidence. Because process matters.

What happens, Mr. Speaker, when the police go and get a confession from a defendant? He did it! This is no whodunit. He admitted he did it. You got the right person, for the right crime. But what happens if he doesn’t follow the process? The defendant walks free. And the criminal defense attorneys, now Congressmen, on the other side of the aisle know that that’s exactly what they argues when they were before the judge. Not that the ends justified the means. Don’t look at the motivation. Look at the process.

Mr. Speaker, we are not a country where the ends justify the means, no matter how good your motivations may be. We all swore an allegiance to the same document that the president swears allegiance to, to faithfully execute the law. So I will be listening intently during this debate for one of my colleagues to explain to me what that phrase means. What does it mean, not to execute the law, but when the framers thought enough of that phrase to add the modifier, faithfully. What does that mean?

And if a president does not faithfully execute the law, Mr. Speaker, what are our remedies? Do we just sit and wait on another election? Do we use the power of the purse, the power of impeachment? Those are punishments, those are not remedies. The remedy is to do exactly what Barack Obama said to do. To go to court, to go to the Supreme Court. And have the Supreme Court say once and for all, we don’t pass suggestions in this body, Mr. Speaker, we don’t pass ideas, we pass laws. And we expect them to be faithfully executed.

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