Ron Paul: Congress’ Failure to Check Executive Branch Would Astound Founders

by | Jan 19, 2014

Paul Goyette

“I’m sure the Founders would be astounded,” says RPI Chairman and Founder Ron Paul, “that this responsibility of the Congress to keep the executive branch in check was given up so easily.”

Speaking with Charles Goyette on Friday during their weekly podcast, Paul explains that the subordination of the US Congress to the executive branch began largely in foreign policy where “it was always conceded that you have to have a strong president.” Paul describes the abandoning of power to the president in foreign policy as “contagious” to other policy areas. Paul also addresses motivations he witnessed in fellow Congress members that encouraged them to give up to the executive branch Congress’ authority under the US Constitution.

Listen to the podcast conversation here.

In the podcast Paul mentions the work of RPI Academic Board Member Louis Fisher on the power of the executive branch. In 2008 Fisher submitted a very informative statement to the Constitution Subcommittee of the US Senate Judiciary Committee that begins with the following, still pertinent, introduction:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to offer my views on ways to restore the rule of law. The previous periods of emergency and threats to national security, the rule of law has often taken a backseat to presidential initiatives and abuses. Although this pattern is a conspicuous part of American history, it is not necessary to repeat the same mistakes every time. Faced with genuine emergencies, there are legitimate methods of executive action that are consistent with constitutional values. There are good precedents from the past and a number of bad ones.

In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States decided to largely adopt the bad ones. The responsibility for this damage to the Constitution lies primarily with the executive branch, but illegal and unconstitutional actions cannot occur and persist without an acquiescent Congress and a compliant judiciary. The Constitution’s design, relying on checks and balances and the system of separation of powers, was repeatedly ignored after 9/11. There are a number of reasons for these constitutional violations. Understanding them is an essential first step in returning to, and safeguarding, the rule of law and constitutional government.

Read here the rest of Fisher’s statement, including an enlightening examination of such matters as claims of executive branch “inherent” powers, usurpation of the war power from Congress, state secrets, secret laws, presidential signing statements, and the use of executive privilege to undermine the rule of law.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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