Brown should resist urge to act unilaterally

On April 22, 1793, George Washington signed the nation’s first executive order, authorizing prosecution of citizens caught defying American neutrality by interfering in a war pitting England against France. He would have sought approval, but Congress was not in session.

Fast-forward a couple of centuries, and you will discover Donald Trump signing 114 in just 2 1/2 years, several appearing to usurp powers previously held by the nation’s supposedly co-equal legislative and judicial branches. More ominously, he has threatened orders of even greater magnitude, one to wall off the rest of our 1,954-mile border with Mexico, in the face of congressional denial, and the other to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, overcoming judicial denial.

The former may stem from the fervent belief in the necessity of sealing our southern border. But the latter clearly results from cynical partisan desire to intimidate residents of Hispanic heritage, putting Democrats at potentiall crippling disadvantage in congressional redistricting.

Here in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown seems equally intent on expanding executive power to impose her personal will.

No doubt she feels just as righteous about climate change as Trump does about illegal immigration, but that doesn’t justify unilateral action to impose highly controversial cap-and-trade legislation. Overreach is overreach, no matter who is usurping power, on what grounds, or under what banner.

Our nation’s founders established three co-equal branches of government, believing the subsequent checks and balances would best protect us a descent into tyranny. And the 50 states, including Oregon, each followed suit as they joined the fold and fashioned their own constitutions.

Since Jan. 1, 2018, Brown has issued 36 executive orders.

Three-quarters authorized state assistance to battle ravages of nature, primarily caused by drought, storm and wildfire. Others authorized such narrow and non-controversial tasks as creation of an autism spectrum commission.

Those strike us as utterly appropriate uses of executive authority. Seeking to impose a cap-and-trade system of state emissions regulation does not — not by any stretch.

Democrats enjoyed supermajorities in both legislative chambers this session, but still found themselves unable to see the legislation through.

And it wasn’t because the state’s 11 GOP senators fled to prevent their chamber from establishing a quorum, as suggested in much of the state and national coverage. It was because three Democrats in the Senate joined two Democrats in the House in opposing the highly controversial measure.

Brown has every right to feel frustrated over the rejection of her top legislative initiative. But she owes it to her state and nation to respect the constitutional checks and balances incorporated in the system.


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