Thursday, January 1, 2009
In this installment of things you might have missed while celebrating the holidays or grading (okay, mostly grading), we focus on an important story from the executive branch.
The last eight years have seen an unprecedented expansion of executive power. After the election, those in our field wondered, “With two constitutional law scholars in office, will there be an attempt to reign in the excesses of the previous eight years?” It seems we have a partial answer to this question.
When we speak of the expansion of executive power, the usual focus is the Commander-in-Chief. However, it is uncontroversial to say that the outgoing Vice President tried to greatly expand the powers of that office during his tenure. In a recent ABC News interview, Vice President-Elect Biden stated that Cheney’s view of a unitary executive was “mistaken,” and that Cheney’s view “at a minimum . . . weaken[ed] our standing in the world and weaken[ed] our security.” Biden’s statement appears to be more than more lip service. A recent report by politico.com lists some of the steps Biden plans to take to contract the vice presidential role:
· Biden will not sit in on the Senate Democrats’ weekly caucus
· Biden will not maintain an office outside the House floor
· Biden will not receive a separate daily intelligence briefing
Time will reveal whether the changes that Biden proposes will achieve their desired effect. However, those that respect the role of the constitution should be cheered by Biden’s words. For the past eight years, the current vice president has created an office that is neither legislative nor executive (unless it suits his purposes) – and thus beyond the oversight of either branch. These steps are a good indication that the vice presidency will be returned to Article II where it belongs.
Tomorrow, the final installment of this series will focus on equal protection. See you then!