by Natalie WymanFamily Foundation Intern/Lobbyist
If you haven’t seen the sketch from Saturday Night Live about Obama’s executive order concerning illegal immigration then you should:
The video parodies the classic School House Rock video that describes how a bill becomes a law: “I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.” (Good luck getting that tune out of your head.) The video then describes the processes through which a bill becomes a law, from committees to debate to each chamber’s votes, and then finally on to being signed by the President.
The SNL video, however, depicts President Obama kicking a proposed immigration bill down the steps of the Capitol and then introducing the child learning about government to Mr. Executive Order. Mr. Executive Order then sings: “I’m an executive order, and I pretty much just happen.”
While the Family Foundation doesn’t take a stance on immigration, the SNL sketch comedically points to a larger problem that is one of the Family Foundation’s five pillars: constitutional government. There is absolutely nothing constitutional about a President completely bypassing the legislative process by issuing such an expansive executive order.
And unfortunately, Virginia’s executive administration has been taking a page out of Obama’s book.
This session, a bill was introduced by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City) that would have required that the Attorney General defend Virginia’s laws or to appoint someone to do so in his place.
Wait...isn’t that already his job description?
It seems pretty commonsensical to the average citizen that the Attorney General’s main job is to defend Virginia and its laws in court when they come under attack. But when the Marriage Amendment to the Virginia Constitution was challenged last year, Attorney General Mark Herring not only refused to defend the law, but actually joined in the suit against the amendment. Yep, you heard right: Mark Herring was suing the very Commonwealth he swore he would protect.
It is incredibly disappointing that we even have to consider a bill like Delegate Pogge’s which merely defines and enforces the already agreed-upon job description of an elected official. Even more disappointing is the fact that it was defeated in the Senate. Despite this defeat, however, the bill served as an important attempt at a plan of correction for this overbearing arm of the executive branch of government - both in our state and nationally.
Since coming to office in 2013, Mark Herring has put his own personal agenda first, ignoring the majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth. It’s like he’s completely forgotten how our American democracy was designed to work - with the explicit intention of preventing the executive from having too much individual power.
That is how democracy functions: the people elect officials who then create the laws. It is inherently undemocratic to circumvent the core of democracy - the people - when issuing expansive opinions or overreaching executive orders.
Whether or not you agree with the law, the people of Virginia clearly voted in favor of defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Because this definition was proposed as a constitutional amendment, not only did it have to pass through the General Assembly two sessions in a row, but it also was put on the ballot and personally voted on by Virginians on Election Day. It’s very hard to argue that this process was not genuinely representative of what the citizens of Virginia wanted. Furthermore, for those who argue that citizens of 2015 differ in opinion from those of 2006, think again. A plethora of statistics have shown that the majority of Virginians still believe that marriage should be defined as between one man and one woman and that the states should have the right to uphold this belief.
Our uniquely American democratic system of checks and balances was established for a reason: to ensure that the people have the power, not tyrannical monarchs. Of course, our system isn’t perfect - I don’t think anyone would say that. However, it is designed with the intention of representing the people as effectively as possible since pure democracy is incredibly inefficient.
We should be afraid when elected officials in the executive branch are using their unilateral powers to avoid the will of the people.