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When Madison described the essence of his constitutional view of the separation of powers in Federalist 51, he declared, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Madison believed that the three branches would maintain constitutional balance by using the institutional interests of each branch to protect their inherent power. He clearly did not envision many of our current leaders in Congress, who often urge presidents to circumvent their own institution if they cannot prevail with legislation. The latest example is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D, Ore.).

Senator Merkley stated in an article in the Washington Post

“This is an important moment. Perhaps nothing is more important for our country and our world than for the United States to make an energetic and bold transition in its energy economy from fossil fuels to renewables. It also frees the president from having to wait for congressional action.

The “chains” to which Senator Merkley refers are the powers set aside in Article I for Congress to make such decisions through the legislative process. As with so many things today, the proposition is that the Constitution can be upheld as long as it submits to your wishes. we have heard The same argument with those calling for packing or changing the Supreme Court.

Many Americans mistake the separation of powers simply for the division of powers between the three branches of government. In fact, it was seen as protecting not institutional rights, but individual rights, by preventing any branch from acquiring sufficient power to despot. No single branch is supposed to have enough power to govern. When power is concentrated in the hands of the president, citizens are left with only the assurance that such unchecked power will be used wisely—a Faustian bargain that the framers repeatedly warned us never to accept.

Madison’s views have long been in decline in Congress. One of the low points was former President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, when he announced his intention to go it alone on his policy goals and refuse to bow to Congressional action. From the branch being told to be bypassed, one would expect a scream or at least a stony silence. Instead, there was raucous cheering that bordered on a collective expression of institutional self-loathing.

Before members like Senator Merkley “drop” a president, they should consider the costs of such a facility. They also need to keep in mind that this president has rambled An impressive set of losses beyond its constitutional powers, including the latter Loss of climate change In front of the Supreme Court in the wake of that bitter defeat, Senator Merkley is calling for the same thing – freeing the president from the constraints of the legislature and the judiciary.

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