One could teach an entire civics course on the immigration debate still winding its way through Congress, but no exchange is more symptomatic of our federal government’s current dysfunction than the following discussion between conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., about the immigration bill’s provisions concerning the border fence.

Hewitt: “I’ve been through the law very carefully. … They actually don’t have to do anything. In fact, I was going to ask you, what if they don’t turn in a strategy in 180 days? What’s the law’s penalty?”

Hoeven: “They’d be breaking the law.”

Hewitt: “But what’s the penalty?”

Hoeven: “Well, you’d obviously have to enforce the law … I mean, that would be saying any law we passed, what if they don’t bother to enforce it.”


What if Congress passed a law and a president signed it, but then a future president chose to completely ignore that perfectly valid law? This is a question our legislators fail to ask far too often.

This is not an issue confined to the immigration debate. It is an issue that has existed since the founding of the Republic and has been growing in importance as the size and scope of our federal government also grows. And it has reached a crisis point during Obama’s presidency.

Obama is far from the first president to stretch the law to meet his own political ends. In fact, just weeks before Obama was sworn into office, the outgoing President George W. Bush used the Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out General Motors and Chrysler.

Never mind that TARP was passed by Congress for the express purpose of buying specific types of “troubled assets” from near-insolvent banks to prevent a financial panic. Bush’s auto bailout took that authority and used it to turn TARP into a general slush fund for politically favored businesses.

And there was nothing anyone in Congress, or the rest of America, could do about it.

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