Dear Member of Congress,
As one of your constituents, I would like to first thank you for your service. This is much appreciated.
I am writing to share my serious concern about the possible deterioration to our system of checks and balances, and to request for you to take action to address this concern. This separation of powers is a critical foundation of our political system, and the checks between the executive, legislative, and judicial, branches as per the U. S. Constitution have prevented one branch from gaining too much power throughout our history.
My concern is that too much power is now starting to be concentrated in the executive branch beyond the norms envisioned for our political system. The example that best demonstrates this is how the recent travel ban has been handled. This was initiated via an Executive Order, which is in line with our political system since Presidents can issue Executive Orders. Multiple courts then issued stays limiting the order, with two judges calling for a complete halt to all detentions of anyone impacted by this ban.
This step is aligned with checks and balances, and the next step should have been for DHS and CBP agents to follow the court order. Instead, they ignored the court order and continued to enforce the Executive Order, which, to my understanding, is in direct contradiction to our system of checks and balances.
This action has continued without challenge, which has unfortunately minimized (at least as of now) the role of the judiciary as one of the two checks on the executive branch. This then leaves only one remaining check – the legislative branch.
I am thus writing to request for you to work with other Members of Congress to enact and support legislation which ensures the continuity of our strong system of checks and balances. One such example of this type of legislation is the bill introduced by Senator Feinstein for limiting executive authority under the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Understood that partisanship sometimes comes into play, but for such a critical topic as ensuring proper checks and balances, hopefully members of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – can unite so that the legislative branch is able to provide appropriate checks on the executive branch.
Please also address any executive actions which, even if completely legal as per the U. S. Constitution, are unprecedented and risk over-concentrating power in the executive branch. One such example is President Trump’s recent appointment of Steve Bannon to the NSC. The NSC drives our national security and foreign policy, and membership has traditionally consisted of senior government officials with roles in these areas. On January 28th, President Trump added Steve Bannon as a permanent member and changed the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from being permanent members to being optional.
This is highly unusual from whatever I understand about the purpose of the NSC – downgrading the role of two senior security officials and adding someone as a permanent member who has zero experience with being a senior official in any role related to the NSC. Given that Steve Bannon was the chief executive officer for President Trump’s campaign and is now President Trump’s Chief Strategist, this action to my understanding risks over-concentrating power and influence with the President beyond what has been our normal convention. If you believe this to be of concern, then I’d request if you can please review to see what Congress can do to address this risk via appropriate legislation.
By the way, the above argument is based purely on principle as related to checks and balances, and not on anything related to Steve Bannon’s views. However, his being known to clearly have alt-right extreme views (he himself just last year declared his website Breitbart News to be “the platform for the alt-right”) certainly adds additional concern to the above risk.
President Trump is our fairly elected president, and he deserves our support and respect as president. Most of his Executive Orders have been moderate and in line with our system of separation of powers, and do not thus require any additional legislative action. However, if we feel that the executive branch might be at risk of concentrating more power than is the norm as expected via our system of checks and balances, then it is important that we all speak out about this and take action to address this concern.
Thomas Jefferson stated, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. The above concerns may only be risks at this point, but I believe that these require us to be vigilant and proactive, and am thus contacting you accordingly. Please consider the views expressed in this letter, and, if agreed, then please take action as you feel appropriate.