- - Friday, December 15, 2017


With the almost-certain passage of tax reform next week, Congress will deliver President Donald Trump’s first major legislative victory. It is noteworthy, of course, that the GOP - in charge of both chambers of Congress - has taken so long to achieve a substantive win.

But, notwithstanding the lackluster performance of Congress, Mr. Trump has, in fact, managed to rack up a series of major wins for conservatives on a broad range of issues.

On the foreign policy front, President Trump disavowed the unpopular Obama-orchestrated Iran deal. And just this past week, the president announced that the U.S. embassy in Israel will be relocated to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem (a move conservatives have long advocated).

On immigration, Mr. Trump announced he would terminate DACA, Mr. Obama’s unilateral amnesty program - a major win for conservatives who disagreed with Mr. Obama’s lawless approach to immigration policy.

And with ObamaCare, Mr. Trump ended the Obama-era illegal subsidies granted to health insurance companies. The subsidies, which Congress had never appropriated, were illegal from the start, and Mr. Trump’s decision to reverse course reinforces the U.S. Constitution’s wise insistence that funds be appropriated by the legislative body.

All of these actions on Mr. Trump’s part reflect a proper understanding of presidential authority. In contrast to Mr. Obama’s embrace of an imperial presidency, Mr. Trump has instead focused on the authorities granted to the president in the Constitution.

 Mr. Obama once boasted about bypassing the legislative process simply by using his “pen and a phone,” and cavalierly promised on many occasions that he would sidestep Congress to accomplish his agenda. “If Congress won’t act, I will,” was his mantra, and his disregard for the Constitution’s separation of powers was evident throughout his eight years in the White House.

For conservatives, Mr. Trump’s presidency is refreshing for two distinct reasons - on the one hand, Trump is reversing many of the misguided Obama policies, but, on the other hand, he is rejecting, at a much more fundamental level, the entire Obama approach to one-man governance. And that, undoubtedly, is going to be one of Mr. Trump’s biggest accomplishments.

In the coming weeks, there are three key areas in which Mr. Trump should exercise his presidential authority.

First and foremost, Mr. Trump should work to fill many of the vacancies within the executive branch, and he should make additional nominations for the federal courts. Conservatives who voted for Mr. Trump want those vacancies filled - and quickly.

Next, Mr. Trump could direct his Justice Department to fully investigate the IRS’s clear wrongdoing in its years-long targeting of conservatives. Lois Lerner, who was a central figure in the IRS’s abusive treatment of American citizens, should be brought to justice, and the targeting scandal should be put to rest as a chapter of American history that will not be repeated.

And finally, Mr. Trump could help accelerate the repeal of ObamaCare by ending the illegal special exemption from the law that Congress enjoys. Congress has refused to live under ObamaCare since it went into effect, yet refuses to repeal the law so the rest of us can experience relief from the law’s onerous provisions and expensive mandates. This is the height of Washington cynicism.

ObamaCare, as written, requires members of Congress and staff to get their health insurance through an ObamaCare exchange. The problem is that there only two exchanges in Washington, D.C. - one for large businesses, which does not allow for employer-provided subsidies, and one for small businesses (under 100 employees), which does allow for subsidies. Congress took the easier, albeit illegal, route of lying on its ObamaCare application so it could enroll in the small business exchange.

Although Congress employs 12,000 people - and is, thus, clearly not a small business - members of Congress and their staffs today have shielded themselves from an uncomfortable consequence of ObamaCare by participating in the small business exchange.

Mr. Obama played a key role in helping Congress skirt the law. By issuing a directive to the Office of Personnel Management to allow Congress to enroll in the wrong ObamaCare exchange, Mr. Obama set in motion Congress’ illegal special exemption from the law.

Mr. Obama’s directive was an affront to the rule of law. After all, how can Americans be expected to follow rules and laws that members of Congress write, but deem too onerous to follow themselves?

Mr. Trump could easily reverse the Obama directive to OPM, and insist that Congress join the rest of us in living under ObamaCare. Forcing Congress to live under the law would likely provide the impetus Congress needs to get serious about repealing ObamaCare.

Mr. Obama’s expansive view of the presidency reminded Americans why we need our system of checks and balances. But Mr. Trump’s presidency has already taught an important corollary - that the president has sufficient constitutional authority to reaffirm the rule of law and reverse the previous administration’s unilateral executive actions.

The mainstream media and liberals in Congress have fostered the narrative that Mr. Trump has accomplished very little this year. But don’t believe it. The truth, which the media would prefer no one noticed, is that Mr. Trump has already delivered on major parts of the conservative agenda.

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