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“I AM NOT A KING.”

“I AM NOT A KING.”

John Donvan
Monday, June 6, 2016

Debating presidential powers: Join us on June 8th in Philadelphia

“I am not a king.” 


Do you remember President Obama saying that, back in 2013? At the time, he was trying to explain that, as occupant of the top spot in the executive branch of government, he understood and respected the limitations the Constitution placed on the power he could bring to bear in making his governing agenda a reality. That is because, as he pointed out (or lamented?) the actual making of laws — those word and idea clusters that so directly shape our lives every day — is a power the constitution hands to Congress. 

On Wednesday, however, we’re debating a complaint: that Obama has been more “kingy” in office than he will admit. That in significant ways, he has been stealing the law-making function from Capitol Hill — and some of Congress’ other specified powers as well: by making recess appointments, going to war in Libya without checking in first, and ignoring certain parts of immigration law and some deadlines related to Obamacare. Now, Obama supporters argue that such maneuvers are legal, adding that they are the president’s last-ditch effort to work around a Congress whose leadership is manifestly devoted to thwarting him where ever it can — just on principle. And they’d pretty much be right about that. 

But that doesn’t mean what the president’s doing is constitutional. And that’s the heart of the question we’ll be debating at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday, June 8th, where the motion will be: 

The President has Usurped the Constitutional Power of Congress 

Note that the motion does not single out President Obama by name. That is because this argument has been raging now through several presidencies, most of which we’ve lived through together – and that’s how we’ll debate it, with, undoubtedly, the names Clinton and Bush getting thrown in there too, as also guilty of “kingyness.” It’s a trend we’ll be debating, not whether you love or hate Barack Obama. 

And that’s where our debate series is different from most of the discourse going around these days. We’re going to put on an honest argument by honest debaters, who will attack the issue involved, not the people involved, and not each other. 

And won’t that be refreshing?  

 

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