Rep. Stewart op-ed: How to turn down the heat on future presidential elections

Rep. Chris Stewart penned an op-ed for the St. George News on turning down the heat on presidential elections 

“Day-to-day life in this country should not drastically change every time we have an election. Restoring the proper balance between the branches would be like a pressure relief valve on our national discourse.” Rep. Chris Stewart 

Day-to-day life in this country should not drastically change every time we have an election. It was never meant to be that way.

With 40 executive orders in his first ten days, President Joe Biden is undertaking an effort to drastically change the country with the wave of a magic wand – or at least a pen.  Despite his razor-thin wins in swing states and the narrow majorities his party notched in the House and Senate, Biden has pursued sweeping changes for which he has no mandate.

No president has issued as many executive orders as quickly as Biden – proof that the process is moving in the wrong direction.

On his first day in office, Biden announced that he would study Utah’s controversial national monuments, killed the Keystone XL pipeline and imposed a freeze on oil and gas leases on public land along with a lot of routine business of land management agencies. Americans who had high paying pipeline and production jobs on Jan. 19 found out they were losing them on Jan. 20. Utah residents who run family ranches, gather firewood or drive on dirt roads were thrown into uncertainty overnight about where those activities will be allowed because of the policy agenda of a U.S. president.

When we empower a president to shortcut the democratic process, we lose a core tenet of our democratic republic.

Congress must reclaim the power to legislate. The Legislative Branch is designed to make broad policy decisions through deliberation and legislation, with clear checks and balances in place.

The Founders deliberately designed a system in which House members face their voters every 24 months. The will of the people is never far from our minds. Congress is designed to be representative of the nation’s diversity in a way the presidency is not. We are also directly accountable to the public in a way no president or Executive Branch bureaucrats ever will be. In order for a bill to pass both houses of Congress, it has to win the approval of nearly 300 individual actors who are accountable to their constituents. As frustrating as the process is, it prevents drastic and sudden policy swings. The same inefficiencies that irritate lawmakers and the public where designed to protect the country from a kind of regulatory whiplash.

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, you have probably had a strong negative reaction to an executive order that directly affected you in recent years. Executive decisions give each side a fleeting sense of victory that just gets crushed by the next administration. The new administration didn’t even try to work out policy through legislation before changing the nation’s direction from the Oval Office.

Biden has unilaterally made consequential decisions that destroy entire sectors of the economy, undermine the rule of law, and raise the cost of life-saving drugs like insulin.  He is not the first to enact sweeping executive orders, but he has accelerated the practice. This country shouldn’t and can’t be run effectively from the White House.

Congress has a duty to deprive the executive branch of that authority.

Furthermore, Congress should no longer rely on the Executive Branch to craft the details of legislation. When we pass expansive omnibus bills, we empower executive secretaries to make, interpret, and enforce the regulations we all live by. Those duties should not be consolidated, especially in Executive Branch agencies that are largely unaccountable to the public. This fundamentally violates the separation of powers which has protected us from tyranny for more than 200 years.

Reducing the power of the president to act dictatorially is a non-partisan issue. Whether you care about natural resources, jobs, military readiness or education, your issues have been dictated by executive action in recent years. So maybe we can all agree that it is time to end the cycle. Let’s agree to give America more stability and predictability by reigning in future presidents. I hope we can turn down the temperature on presidential races if we stop treating the office of the president as the office of a sovereign. Our lives and livelihoods should not depend on who is elected to the presidency.

By moving the practice of lawmaking back to the Congress and the states, where it belongs, we can reduce the magnitude of presidential elections and lower the stakes in that race. Restoring the proper balance between the branches would be like a pressure relief valve on our national discourse.