Speaker Ryan: We Must Defend the Principle of Self-Government | Speaker.gov

WASHINGTON — Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H. Res. 639, which authorizes Speaker Ryan to file an amicus brief on behalf of the House defending Congress’s Article I powers under the Constitution:

“Mr. Speaker, my colleagues—I rise today to urge you to support this measure, H. Res. 639. Let me explain why, and why everyone should support this.

“This resolution authorizes me, on behalf of the House, to file an amicus brief to defend our Article I powers under the Constitution. Normally, this question would be considered by what is known as the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. But I am asking the whole House to go on the record as an institution. 

“I recognize that this is an extraordinary step. I feel it is very necessary, though—in fact, I believe this is vital. This is not a question of whether or not we are for or against any certain policy. Members who are making immigration policy arguments are missing the entire point here. This comes down to a much more fundamental question.

“It is about the integrity of our Constitution. Article I. Article I states that ‘all legislative powers’ are vested in Congress. Article II. Article II states that the president shall ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’

“Those lines—that separation of powers—could not be clearer. Article I: Congress writes laws. Article II: presidents faithfully execute those laws.

“In recent years, the executive branch has been blurring these boundaries, to the point of absolutely overstepping them altogether. As a result, bureaucrats responsible for executing the laws as written are now writing the laws at their whim.

“This doesn’t just throw our [system of] checks and balances off-balance—it creates a fourth branch of government. It creates a fourth branch of government that operates with little or no accountability whatsoever. And it means—most profoundly, this means that—we the people, through our elected representatives, are not drafting the laws that we live under. This is the profound difference that’s occurring here. This fourth branch of government is a danger to self-government itself.

“The Supreme Court has recognized the severity of this threat. In United States v. Texas, the Court has asked whether the president’s overreach violates his duty to faithfully execute the laws. The House is uniquely qualified—and I would argue, obligated—to respond.

“Colleagues, we are the body closest to the people. We are the ones who are directly elected from the American people every other year. And if we’re going to maintain the principle of self-government, if we’re going to maintain this critical founding principle of government by consent of the governed, then the legislative branch needs to be writing our laws—not the executive branch, and certainly not a branch of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

“This is what’s happening. And it’s not just this administration, although this administration is taking it to whole new levels.

“As speaker, I believe the authority of the office that I have been entrusted with by each and every one of you is to protect the authority of this body. I am prepared to make our case.

“We must defend the principle of self-determination, of self-government, of government by consent of the governed. This Constitution protects our rights as people. It makes sure that the government works for us and not the other way around. It makes sure that we as citizens, if we don’t like the direction our government is going, if we don’t like the laws that we’re being forced to live under, that we can change that through the ballot box.

“And this is being undermined every day. I am prepared to submit this defense of our Article I powers, and I ask the whole House for its support.”