A delegation primarily of Florence representatives and others from the Pee Dee met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss local issues, provide updates and get some quality face time.

Florence City Councilman Robby Hill helped orchestrate the trip again this year through the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to talk with local Congressmen Tom Rice, R-S.C. 7, Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. 6, and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott about infrastructure, education, economic development and transportation issues.

“We pull all these people from the Pee Dee and come up with list of issues, and it’s good to watch the list come together because the issues affecting any one of us affects Florence, Darlington to Lake City,” Hill said. “It’s good to see us present a unified front to bring enough people to show that we’re concerned with Washington.”

This year Hill built upon the guarantee he and others got last year that US Airways Express would remain at the Florence Regional Airport after its parent company merged with American Airlines. Now, there are hopes to see route expansion or an additional airline at the airport.

“This year we’re working with them to look at opportunities to expand US Airways out to an American Airlines hub,” Hill said. “We just want more service. This area is an economic engine that’s unrivaled for this region with a brand new terminal, and it’s an amazing asset to showcase. We’re making case that this is worth considering, especially for these corporations here in Florence.”

Rice said such meetings provides him another opportunity to hear about what’s going on in the Pee Dee region that he has represented for a little more than a year now.

“We discussed federal legislation impacting seniors and physicians and local initiatives to improve education,” Rice said in a statement. “I was happy to give an overview of House-passed legislation that addresses some of their concerns and facilitate a meeting between the group and US Airways/American Airlines.”

Florence and Lake City mayors Stephen J. Wuklea and Lovith Anderson, Jr., along with McLeod Health Chief of Medicine Dr. Coy Irvin, Duke Energy Progress’ Mindy Taylor, Florence-Darlington Technical College’s Terry Dingle and Florence City Manager Drew Griffin also paid their way to D.C. for the two-day trip.

Griffin, like Hill, said the trip gives leaders opportunities to find solutions, like last year when he and Wukela helped secure $4 million in funds to save the troubled Timmonsville water and sewer system. This year the talk focused on Florence’s big issue — neighborhood redevelopment.

“We spoke at pretty good length about neighborhood redevelopment, believing that neighborhood redevelopment is key to the future prosperity of Florence and to attract industry and commerce,” Griffin said. “The federal delegation has access to existing federal programs directed at neighborhood planning activities, so we let them know that that was going to be initiative of the city’s and where they can assist us with those.”

The group also met with industry groups that briefed the leaders on topics relevant to the Pee Dee.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in our region,” Hill said. “And it was great to be able to share our successes, continue these relationships and look for opportunities.”

GAVIN JACKSON, Morning News

By Rep. Tom Rice

In 1792, when charged with enforcing an unpopular tax on whiskey in the face of rebellion, President George Washington noted in a letter to Alexander Hamilton, “It is my duty to see the Laws executed: to permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to” that duty.

With a long and bloody war for freedom still fresh in their memory, our forefathers created a government of, by and for the people, and they protected that new citizenry by dividing it into three branches and providing checks and balances to limit the power of each branch. The legislature created the law, the executive enforced it and the judicial interpreted it as the need arose.

After having just escaped the clutches of a monarch, the Founding Fathers did not seek to grant one man the power to unilaterally create and execute the law; however, more than 220 years after Washington recognized his duty, we find ourselves confronted with a commander in chief all too eager to forget his.

The “take care” clause in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the president shall “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” While the president has the right to exercise reasonable discretion, he may not choose which laws shall be enforced. This is fundamental to our constitutional framework.

Consider the potential for abuse. With the power to decide which laws to enforce, a president might grant dispensation of onerous laws to one favoured class while enforcing those same laws against those who do not share his political ideology. What would we say if the president decided to waive a tax against business owners, but not against the common citizen? How would we react if a president decided to enforce the tax laws only against his political enemies? What if the president unilaterally decided to open our nation’s borders to whomever, whenever, without the need for background checks, visas or green cards?

In delaying employer mandates, an IRS targeting conservative political groups and refusing to enforce our immigration laws, President Barack Obama has forgotten his duty.

If the president can choose which laws to enforce, there is no need for congress and little need for the courts. The House and Senate can go home, as the laws they pass — even after having been signed into law by the executive — are of little consequence if the president makes sure they are implemented only at his discretion.

President Obama has clearly and repeatedly violated Article II, Section 3 throughout his presidency. His waiver of the work requirements under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, his failure to enforce our immigration laws, and his unilateral decision not to enforce multiple provisions of his own health care law are just a few examples of his lapse in duty and failure to execute his oath of office.

I, along with 118 co-sponsors, have filed the Stop This Overreaching Presidency, or “STOP,” resolution. If adopted by a majority of the House, this resolution will require the House to take legal action to force the president to do his job as prescribed by the Constitution.

Opponents of such a measure are sure to dismiss it as a conservative vendetta, a Republican vs. Democrat partisan battle, or personal animosity against the president. My colleagues and I take this action because we believe, as our Founders did, that one man is not greater than the Constitution, and that a government of the people, by the people and for the people is more than just a broken campaign promise. It is who we are as Americans and it must not be ignored.

Rep. Tom Rice is a Republican from South Carolina.

Members of Congress and constitutional law experts testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, warning that the legislative branch is in danger of ceding its power in the face of an “imperial presidency.”

The hearing, “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws,” focused on the multiple areas President Barack Obama has bypassed Congress, ranging from healthcare and immigration to marriage and welfare rules.

Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, testified that the expansion of executive power is happening so fast that America is at a “constitutional tipping point.”

“My view [is] that the president, has in fact, exceeded his authority in a way that is creating a destabilizing influence in a three branch system,” he said. “I want to emphasize, of course, this problem didn’t begin with President Obama, I was critical of his predecessor President Bush as well, but the rate at which executive power has been concentrated in our system is accelerating. And frankly, I am very alarmed by the implications of that aggregation of power.”

“What also alarms me, however, is that the two other branches appear not just simply passive, but inert in the face of this concentration of authority,” Turley said.

While Turley agrees with many of Obama’s policy positions, he steadfastly opposes the method he goes about enforcing them.

“The fact that I happen to think the president is right on many of these policies does not alter the fact that I believe the means he is doing [it] is wrong, and that this can be a dangerous change in our system,” he said. “And our system is changing in a very fundamental way. And it’s changing without a whimper of regret or opposition.”

Elizabeth Price Foley, a law professor at Florida International University College of Law, agreed, warning that Congress is in danger of becoming “superfluous.”

“Situations like this, these benevolent suspensions as they get more and more frequent and more and more aggressive, they’re eroding our citizens’ respect for the rule of law,” she said. “We are a country of law and not men. It’s going to render Congress superfluous.”

Foley said Congress is not able to tackle meaningful legislation out of fear that Obama would “simply benevolently suspend portions of the law he doesn’t like.”

“If you want to stay relevant as an institution, I would suggest that you not stand idly by and let the president take your power away,” she said.

Panelists and members of Congress dismissed the idea of impeachment, and instead focused on lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of the president’s unilateral moves.

Four House members testified on the first panel during the hearing to highlight legislation they have sponsored to thwart the administration’s executive overreach.

Impeachment would “surely be extremely divisive within the Congress and the nation generally, and would divert the attention of Congress from other important issues of the day,” said Rep. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.).

Gerlach, who testified before the committee, introduced H.R. 3857, the “Enforce the Take Care Clause Act,” which would expedite the review and injunction process for federal courts to challenge executive actions. Such a challenge would have to pass a supermajority in both chambers in order to be fast-tracked.

“Given the growing number of examples where this President has clearly failed to faithfully execute all laws, I believe it is time for Congress to put in place a procedure for a fast-track, independent review of those executive actions,” he said.

Gerlach said he proposed the bill due to Obama’s repeated alterations to his signature law, the Affordable Care Act.

“The ACA has been revised, altered and effectively rewritten by the president and his administration 23 times since July,” he said.

“When we have these constant changes at the president’s whim think about what that does to businesses’ planning capabilities and hiring capabilities and their expansion capabilities,” Rep. Tom Rice (R., S.C.) said. “We shouldn’t wonder why our economy is struggling.”

Rice has proposed the “Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP) Resolution” as a remedy. The resolution, which has 114 cosponsors, would direct the House to file lawsuits against four of the president’s unilateral actions, including the employer mandate delay in Obamacare and deferred action program for illegal immigrants.

Turley said Congress must take action to regain their power as the “thumping heart of our system.”

“The fact is, we’re stuck with each other,” Turley said. “Whether we like it or not in a system of shared powers. For better or worse we may deadlock, we maybe despise each other. The framers foresaw such periods, they lived in such a period.”

BY: Elizabeth Harrington

February 26, 2014

More than 100 House Republicans have now co-sponsored a measure to bring legal action against President Barack Obama for overstepping the boundaries of his executive authority.

The STOP (Stop This Overreaching Presidency) resolution, introduced by GOP Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina late last year, has gained 43 co-sponsors since Obama's State of the Union address, when he vowed to implement policies on his own if Congress didn't act, bringing the total to 104, reports The Hill.

The bill is aimed at reversing the president's extension of healthcare policies that were ended under Obamacare, delaying the healthcare law's employer mandate for a year, adoption of the DREAM Act, and waiving part of the work requirements for welfare, Rice told the publication.

"We're a country of laws, and nobody, including the president, is above the law," he said.

Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, maintained that overreach by the executive branch is not a partisan issue but a matter of setting a precedent for all presidents.

"To suggest that he can write laws without Congress is an insult to the American people," the Louisiana Republican told Politico,  

Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan said it important for the House to send a message and to involve the judicial branch in any conflict with the White House.

"You cannot rule by fiat," she told Politico. "I signed on to this resolution because I have watched this president overreach."

If the legislation advanced, it would reportedly be non-binding and not need Senate approval.

Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 08:39 AM

By Lisa Barron

President Obama's aggressive use of administrative power is testing the boundaries of executive authority on several fronts.

Obama throughout his presidency has pushed the envelope on recess appointments, prosecutorial discretion and the way his administration executes laws, drawing resistance from the other two branches of government.

Experts say Obama's tactics are not unusual and note that he has issued fewer executive orders than many of his predecessors. But Congressional Republicans counter that it is the content, not the number, of presidential directives that has them up in arms.

“I think leadership is coming to the conclusion that they cannot sit idly by while the president makes this enormous power grab,” said Rep. Tom Rice, a South Carolina Republican urging the House to file a lawsuit over various executive actions. “He’s actually shredding the constitution.”

Obama has made clear his intent to use every tool at his disposal to further policy goals in lieu of action from a bitterly divided Congress, pledging in last month’s state of the union to use his “pen” wherever necessary.

In remarks Friday at House Democrats’ annual retreat, Obama said he would prefer to work with Congress than act unilaterally.

“But, I'm not going to wait, because there's too much to do,” he said.  “And America does not believe in standing still.”

In recent days, Obama signed an executive order effectively raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, while his administration extended additional legal rights to same sex couples and issued new banking guidelines for legal pot businesses, among other contentious actions.

“All modern presidents have done this,” said Kenneth Mayer, a University of Wisconsin political science professor who has studied the presidency extensively. “All presidents utilize the tools of executive power to implement policies.”

To be sure, Obama is not the first president to be accused of overstepping the bounds of his authority – a point emphasized Friday by White House press secretary Jay Carney, who said,  “it is funny to hear Republicans get upset about the suggestion the president might use legally available authorities … when, obviously, they supported a president who used executive authorities quite widely.”

But the same point could be made in reverse. President George W. Bush faced an onslaught of criticism from Democrats in response to “signing statements” used to expound his administration’s interpretations of hundreds of laws passed by Congress.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), for instance, accused the Bush White House in 2006 of cultivating “an insidious brand of unilateralism that regularly crosses into an arrogance of power."

Even then-Sen. Barack Obama criticized Bush’s executive actions in 2007, in the midst of his successful presidential run.

"I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law,” he pledged.

Obama has signed roughly 170 executive orders to date, according to records kept by the National Archives and published in the Federal Register.  That puts him on pace to sign fewer than any two-term president in a century.

By comparison, President George W. Bush issues 291 executive orders, while President Bill Clinton signed 364, according to The American Presidency Project, an undertaking by the University of California, Santa Barbara. All of them combined fall well short of the high water mark set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who issued a whopping 3,522 executive orders.

But formal executive orders are but one of the mechanisms through which presidents can exert power. Obama’s administration has also flexed its muscle through less formal policy announcements and regulatory powers.

Mayer, whose book, “With the Stroke of a Pen,” analyzed executive power, said Obama has tested the boundaries of his power by claiming authority to target Americans with overseas drone strikes and halting the deportations of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Obama came under fire on Monday when the Treasury Department revealed it was delaying enactment of ObamaCare’s employer mandate for certain mid-sized companies for the second time, meaning they would have an additional year to offer health care to their workers or pay penalties.

The move sparked fresh outrage from the president’s critics. Though they oppose the mandate, and the law for that matter, Obama’s political rivals argue that he cannot simply pick and choose which parts of the law to enforce.

“It’s a disturbing attitude, I’d say,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill.

Upon announcing the delay, a senior Treasury Department official said the administration has discretion under the law to delay the provision.

Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and a strong supporter of the healthcare law, argued that presidential administrations commonly extend compliance deadlines, particularly for sweeping and complex laws such as the Affordable Care Act.

Republican administrations, he said, presided over similar delays in the execution of laws approved by Congress.

“This is not anything new – it’s just now the shoe’s on the other foot,” Jost said. “I think they’re taking a reasonable approach and I think there’s a legal basis for what they’re doing.”

Earlier this month, Grassley asked Obama’s Justice Department to provide by Friday its legal defense for president Obama’s executive actions.

As of late Friday, there had been no response.

“We get these opinions from the courts,” Grassley said. “Why can’t we get a legal opinion from the attorney general?”

In the House, Rice is leading a more aggressive rebuke to Obama’s executive power play. His "Stop This Overreaching Presidency" Resolution directing the House to file a federal lawsuit challenging four executive actions has attracted more than 100 co-sponsors.

The suit would challenge the employer mandate delay and the 2011 decision to stop certain deportations after the DREAM Act failed to gain traction in Congress. Also targeted are the extension of "substandard" insurance policies that would otherwise have been canceled under the Affordable Care Act, and a waiver of welfare work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Before hearing the case, a court would have to find that the House has standing to sue over the actions. A Congressional Research Service analysis conducted for Rice late last year found that that such a suit might clear that hurdle.

“It appears likely that a one-house resolution specifically authorizing such judicial recourse would satisfy this authorization requirement,” the nonpartisan CRS concluded.

Regardless of the fate of that measure, the courts will be the final arbiter of whether Obama’s actions have exceeded the power of his office. The Supreme Court, for example, is now weighing the constitutionality of a trio of recess appointments Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate said it was in recess.

If allowed to stand, the appointments would help cement presidential authority to fill key agency posts and install federal judges without Senate backing, a result that observers say would tip scales of federal power toward the executive branch.

However, in arguments before the high court last month, nearly every justice signaled questioned the legality of the appointments.

“The history is entirely on the Senate's side, not your side,” Justice Elena Kagan, herself an Obama appointee and part of the court's liberal wing, told the government’s attorney, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli.

By Ben Goad - 02/17/14 06:00 AM EST