Obama cements his legacy

Published 10:21 am Thursday, December 29, 2016

The founders of our country purposefully designed the three branches of government with the intention of using the system of checks and balances to keep any one branch from acting on its own and becoming too powerful.   

Recently, President Barack Obama once again made a sweeping policy change by executive decree, flying the face of our constitutional system of government, this time acting to “indefinitely ban” offshore energy exploration throughout a huge swath of the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Virginia.

While the president aimed to bolster his legacy on environmental policy with the move, instead it serves as a capstone on his true legacy of executive overreach and the dangerous precedents he has set.

While it is expected that President-elect Donald Trump will reverse this misguided decision, the Obama Administration crafted this action in such a way to make it very difficult and expensive to do so, meaning taxpayers will likely face years of litigation costs to unravel the move. 

While I am hopeful that the new administration will work to reverse the trend of unilateral executive action, I fear that Obama has done irrevocable damage to our separation of powers given his disdain for Congress and its authority.

Trump has signaled his desire to restore the appropriate role of the legislative branch, but he will also have to take several executive actions to undo the negative policies that the Obama Administration created on their own.

Our founders created a deliberate, open, and transparent process in which legislators, who are wholly accountable to the people, create and amend our laws.

Every facet of the system is designed to protect and enshrine our natural rights.

These executive actions embody none of those principles nor do they offer any similar protections to our citizens.

In the case of offshore energy exploration in Virginia, for years, leaders on both sides of the aisle have promoted a responsible energy exploration policy so we might access the God-given resources we have off our coast. 

Not only would such activity create thousands of good-paying jobs and secondary economic benefits, it would also bolster our nation’s energy independence, reduce energy prices and bring significant revenues to the commonwealth for use on transportation, schools and public safety.

By changing policy with the stroke of his pen rather than through an open debate and amendment process, Obama has once again stifled the ability of the American people to work their will through their duly-elected legislators.

This style of so-called leadership must stop, and it is my hope that with a new administration, we may return to a system of government that aligns with the essential balance of powers our founders so carefully struck.

Robert Hurt represents Buckingham, Prince Edward and Cumberland in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be contacted at Hurt.House.gov.