On Monday, Speaker Ryan introduced a resolution that launches an unprecedented defense of Congress’s Article I powers under our Constitution. Read H. Res. 639.
Here’s how he described the resolution—his first as Speaker—at a press conference today:
"We are the branch of government that is closest to the people. We are defending the people not only against executive overreach. We are defending the people of this country against a growing branch of unelected bureaucrats who are writing our laws.
"There is a problem in this country. . . . We have unelected bureaucrats who are writing our laws. That means we the people, through our elected representatives, are not the final arbiters or drafters of the legislation that we have to live under.
"This is very important. If we’re going to maintain the founding principle of being a self-governing people, if we’re going to maintain the founding principle of government by consent of the governed, the legislative branch of government needs to be the one writing the laws—not the executive branch. . . .
"This is why we’re filing an amicus brief—to defend our Article One powers. . . . We’re going to defend Article One, because we believe passionately in the principle of being a self-governing people, of government by consent of the governed, of putting back in the box this growing fourth branch of government that is becoming more and more and more unaccountable to the people of this country. By restoring the separation of powers, we can reclaim these ideals."
Here’s what you need to know about H. Res. 639, which the House is scheduled to take up on Thursday:
- Article I vs. Article II. In United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court asked whether the president’s executive amnesty violates the president’s duties under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”? This is a question the House is uniquely qualified to answer: under Article I, “all legislative powers” are vested in Congress. Neither the president nor unelected bureaucrats are permitted to write laws. Only Congress is.
- The resolution. H. Res. 639 authorizes Speaker Ryan to file a brief on behalf of the whole House defending Congress’s Article I powers. The decision to file these briefs is usually made by the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, not the full body. This is the first time any Speaker has taken this step. Given that this overreach is a direct attack on Congress’s Article I powers, it is essential for the institution to respond as a whole.
- Next steps. Should the House pass this resolution, outside counsel will draft a brief and ask the Supreme Court for time during oral argument. In addition, Republicans will advance ideas to restore the separation of powers and the Constitution as part of a bold and specific policy agenda.