Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Executive Overreach Task Force Hearing on “Executive Overreach in Domestic Affairs Part I – Health Care and Immigration”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Today’s Executive Overreach Task Force hearing examines whether President Obama has violated the U.S. Constitution with respect to his authority to enforce the Affordable Care Act and the immigration laws.  These are both issues that the full Committee has repeatedly considered in the past and it is clear to me that the President hasnot violated any constitutional limitations on the exercise of his executive authority as to either of these areas.

            To begin with, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration programs are clearly lawful exercises of executive discretion.

            Presidents from both parties, including George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, routinely have used similar deferred deportation policies to promote family unity in our immigration system. 

            These programs are common sense solutions to our broken immigration system that has divided families for decades and subjected many to harsh immigration enforcement policies.  

            The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs are not only appropriate, but perfectly lawful.

            Prominent legal scholars – including liberal professors such as Laurence Tribe and conservative professors such as Eric Posner – concur that these programs represent a lawful exercise of the President’s executive authority. 

            Moreover, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy have previously held that the Executive Branch retains broad discretion in immigration proceedings and this is a “principal feature of the removal system.”

This discretion permits the Executive Branch, through the Department of Homeland Security to set priorities and, accordingly, the agency has chosen to focus its enforcement efforts on those with serious criminal convictions instead of focusing on hardworking immigrants who simply lack documentation. 

            Although oral argument before the Supreme Court in United States v. Texas is scheduled for next month, I fully expect the Court, in keeping with prior precedent, will uphold the Administration’s immigration programs. 

            And, we must note that the principal reason why these programs are necessary is because this Congress has repeatedly failed to take any action to fix our Nation’s broken immigration system.  

            Rather than addressing this problem, the Majority has chosen to focus only on legislative initiatives aimed at deporting Dreamers and the parents of U.S. citizen children as well as denying basic protections to children fleeing violence and persecution.

            I sincerely hope this Congress can move forward towards repairing our broken immigration system instead of blaming this President for taking lawful actions that were well within his Executive authority.

            And, finally, with respect to the Affordable Care Act, the Majority in the House has on more than 60 occasions voted to repeal this law, but to no avail. So their assertion that it is an unconstitutional exercise of the President’s executive power should come as no surprise.

Specifically, the Act’s opponents claim that the Administration – by providing transitional relief to large employers that do not provide health insurance for their employees and by authorizing subsidies  – usurped Congress’ responsibilities under Article I of the Constitution and violated the Constitution’s Take Care Clause.

Yet, as Simon Lazarus, the Minority witness, has previously explained, the Administration’s actions in implementing Affordable Care Act’s complex statutory scheme were well within its statutory authority and we consonant with the President’s obligation to “faithfully” execute the law.
Clearly, we should be able to have legitimate policy differences without making unfounded accusations. There is substantial precedent supporting the President’s actions in health care and immigration.

            I thank the witnesses for appearing today and I look forward to hearing their testimony. 
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