Only dictators govern by executive order

The recent column by two law school professors urging President Barack Obama to "bypass Congress" by making law through executive orders is truly alarming ("Bypass Congress," Dec. 27).

The Revolutionary War was fought for our freedom from the King of England who made arbitrary laws with no accountability, no restraints, no constitution.

The system of checks and balances with three independent branches of government was designed to protect us from a president who would envision himself as a king who can do no wrong, who can by the "stroke of a pen" as the law professors say, make law according to his own personal whims.

All members of the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election every two years and thus have direct accountability to the voters. Even though U.S. Senators run every six years, the elections are staggered so we voters can express our pleasure or displeasure while at the same time having stability and continuity in our government.

Congress does not simply sit in Washington and pass laws. The law-making process is designed to be open and transparent. A bill is introduced, there are public hearings in committee, and the bills can be amended. The full House has to vote if a bill is reported out of committee and once again there are many opportunities for public input: people can call, write or e-mail members of Congress, the media can through commentary or news reporting support or challenge the proposed law, and the law, if passed, can be challenged in court. Lawmaking in a democracy is an open process.

Another independent branch of government, the judiciary, would also be threatened by the proposal to bypass Congress. While federal judges are appointed, not elected, at least the Senate has the responsibility to confirm those judges before they take office and theoretically those judges are independent of the other branches of government. There would be no independent judiciary under a government of executive order.

The intent of the framers of the Constitution was to provide a democratic form of government with checks and balances. The fact that there are times the president of the United States and a majority of the Senate and the House might not all belong to the same party is up to the voters. Some political scientists argue having both parties in strong positions within our government encourages free and full discussion and compromise.

Compromise is in fact a driving force in a democracy. It is shocking to have law professors advocating strong arm tactics by any president in order to force his own viewpoints of policy on Americans. There will be elections in 2014 with the entire House and one-third of the Senate up for re-election. If Americans embrace the president's vision, then they have the opportunity to elect House and Senate members who support that view. Again, it is an open process.

Just because a president wins re-election does not give him authority to rule our county by executive order. Such a powerful tool is especially disturbing in any lame duck president who does not have to account to the voters directly again.

A democracy might not always be efficient. But the process must be open for discussion, public input, challenge and compromise. A president "by the stroke of a pen" bypassing the duly elected House and Senate members becomes a dictator, a king.

To have a chief executive bypass Congress by executive order goes against our history as a democratic country and makes a mockery of all the veterans who sacrificed their lives to protect our democratic form of government.

Correale F. Stevens, Hazelton, Pa.

The writer is a judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

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