Separation of powers?

Congress has just been hoisted on its own petard.

No doubt our Congresscritters will open up today's New York Times to read in horror that about President Bush's latest power grab.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the presidentÂ’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

How typical of Bushian "big-government conservatism:"  Beef up the bureaucracy in the name of presumably streamlining regulations.

But that's not what has Democrats howling:

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”

Sorry, but this is a mess of the Congress's own making — over decades.  Over that time, Congress has unconstitutionally delegated much of its lawmaking authority to the executive branch, to the myriad regulatory agencies that issue myriad regulations that carry the force of law.  The Cato Institute's David Schoenbrod and Jerry Taylor write in the Cato Handbook for Congress

For the first 150 years of the American Republic, the Supreme Court largely upheld the original constitutional design, requiring that Congress rather than administrators make the law. The suggestion that Congress could broadly delegate its lawmaking powers to others — particularly the executive branch — was generally rejected by the courts.

Much of that went out the window with the New Deal.  Of course, if you suggested to a modern-day Congresscritter that the legislative branch should reclaim that power, he or she would reply, "But how can we possibly know enough about all the matters government regulates to wisely legislate all of it?  As it is, we don't even have time to read things like the Patriot Act before we vote on them."

Maybe the solons of years gone by should have thought about that first: What is actually in the government's purview to regulate?  Is it actually Constitutional to regulate all these things?

But they didn't ask.  Now comes George W. Bush, asserting his authority over these hypothetically "independent" agencies, and all of a sudden Congress squawks.  Sorry, no sympathy here.  Except for you and me and everyone else who has to live with the consequences of all this.

The Daily Reckoning