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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Checks, Balances, and the Next President

“Every president expands the power of the presidency,” said Neal Devins, a law professor at the College of William & Mary. “This is a constant pattern. They never shrink the presidency. A President Trump could say, ‘I’m going to use the Obama playbook’ and go pretty far. The difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not going to be one of lawlessness but of the policies they pursue.”
Trump could justify an all-out assault on the Islamic State by pointing to the same kinds of authority that allowed the Bush administration to use torture against alleged terrorists and allowed the Obama administration to expand the use of drones to kill terrorist suspects. Recent presidents have used their constitutional authority as commander in chief even to take actions that are specifically restricted by law.
“No one knows what Trump would really do, which is why people are so freaked out,” said Devins, the law professor . “If he did push the boundaries dangerously, it really would depend on Congress, and it would take an awful lot for Republicans to join with the Democrats to assert themselves and slap him down.

“It took Watergate for the parties to stand up to Nixon and attempt to constrain the presidency. The question really is, what unilateral action against ISIS would be so extreme that Congress would pass a funding ban?”

Asked about Trump’s proposals to ban Muslims or build a border wall without congressional approval, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said last month that he “would sue any president that exceeds his or her powers.”

But Devins has concluded that the record of the past two decades shows that Congress “lacks both the will and the way to check the presidency.

“Today’s system of checks and balances,” he said , “is an abject failure.”