Idaho Rep. Labrador: Congress gives up authority

Among the dirty little secrets I’ve learned as your congressman is that Congress willingly surrenders its constitutional authority to the executive branch. The result is a vastly expanded federal bureaucracy that controls decisions that should be made by Congress.

This attack on liberty isn’t new, though President Obama has refined executive overreach with his actions regulating the economy, environment, immigration and even public restrooms. It’s well past time for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority.

I have some good news. Last month, the House passed the Separation of Powers Restoration Act. I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 4768 and was proud to support the bill in the Judiciary Committee and the House floor.

The bill would overturn a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. The Court held that when Congress does not directly speak to an issue in a law, the courts must defer to federal regulators’ interpretation of that law — as long as the agency’s view is reasonable.

The decision has shifted power to an already overgrown administrative state, as judges across America apply “Chevron deference” to federal agencies and their mountains of rules and regulations governing our lives. In 1960, the Code of Federal Regulations contained 22,877 pages; at the end of 2014, it reached 175,268 pages.

Making things worse, Chevron encourages lazy lawmaking. Given license to avoid the tough choices of clearly worded policy, Congress passes vague laws and leaves the interpretation to unelected bureaucrats.

The Separation of Powers Restoration Act would revive the robust judicial review intended by the Founding Fathers. Courts would start fresh when reviewing congressional intent, rather than surrender to agency interpretation.

This issue is at the very heart of our republic. Arguing for ratification of the Constitution, James Madison wrote in 1788: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

In 1803, in the unanimous Marbury v. Madison decision setting the precedent for judicial review, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.”

Chevron, combined with the Auer v. Robbins decision in 1997, has turned those foundational principles on their heads. With the passage of the Separation of Powers Restoration Act, the House has taken an important first step to rein in a reckless executive branch while restoring the constitutional authority of Congress and the courts.