Ten Times the President Has Overruled Congress

The President can overrule Congress through an executive order. That’s how alleged President Joe Biden can legalize cannabis.

Presidents have been misusing executive orders for over a century. We’ve discussed this before. But has there ever been an example of the President blatantly overruling Congress?

After all, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is a law passed by Congress.

Of course, rescheduling cannabis without Congress is an executive power grab. But scrapping the Act entirely? Or at least removing cannabis from the list?

We sympathize with those who want to follow the Constitution. But as the great American philosopher Lysander Spooner wrote,

“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

Here are ten examples of when the President overruled Congress.

10. President Trump Overruled Congress

President Trump Overruled Congress
President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, gestures at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, as they viewed the solar eclipse. (AP Andrew Harnik)

In 2019, President Trump wanted military funds for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Congress had passed a spending bill that did not give Trump what he wanted. 

So Trump simply declared a national emergency at the southern border and diverted funds from the Department of Defense budget. 

The massive incarceration of nonviolent criminals (most of them black) for cannabis is modern-day slavery. The prison system puts many to work for pennies on the dime. Is that not a national emergency?

Instead, Biden repeats his “federal pardons” mantra as if anyone is in federal prison for simple cannabis possession

9. President Obama Overruled Congress

In 2013, President Obama announced a one-year delay in the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. This mandate, passed by Congress, forced certain employers to provide health insurance to their employees.

Obama used his executive powers to overrule Congress and give employers a year to prepare.

8. Obama Overruled Congress Again

In 2012, President Obama circumvented Congress by using his executive power to prevent deportations of illegal immigrants.

While some say Obama’s actions were within his authority, others say granting de facto legal status to a group of individuals requires congressional authorization. Which Obama did not have.

7. Abraham Lincoln’s Suspension of Habeas Corpus

Abraham Lincoln's Suspension of Habeas Corpus

Is there a more blatant disregard for the powers of Congress than by suspending habeas corpus? Lincoln did this during the War Between the States. He argued it was necessary for national security.

The Constitution grants the government the power to suspend habeas corpus. But this power is given to Congress only. Congress eventually passed the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act in 1863.

But only after Lincoln took unilateral action.

6. Nixon’s Impoundment of Funds

President Richard Nixon engaged in a practice known as impoundment. He would withhold spending appropriated by Congress for various programs. He would do this without Congressional approval so he could control federal spending.

Eventually, Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which limited the President’s ability to overrule Congress and impound funds.

5. President Reagan Overruled Congress’ Embargo

During the 1980s, Reagan violated the embargo on Iran imposed by Congress. In exchange for American hostages, Reagan sold the Iranians weapons. 

4. President Clinton Withheld Information from Congress

President Clinton Withheld Information from Congress

Few recall that the Drudge Report broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal. If not for the early Internet, the corporate press would have likely ignored the scandal altogether.

These days, they’d call it misinformation and employ a psych-op on the American people to discredit actual investigative journalists.

Anyway, Clinton used his executive powers to withhold documents and information from Congress. Many saw this as an example of the President seeking to limit congressional oversight.

3. President George W. Bush and the NSA

After 9/11, George W. Bush authorized warrantless surveillance via the National Security Agency (NSA). This blatantly overruled Congress’ authority to oversee surveillance activities via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

2. Presidents Overrule Congress When They Want War

Presidents Overrule Congress When They Want War

Only the United States Congress has the power to declare war. Yet, let’s count the number of times a Commander-in-Chief has engaged in military conflict without a formal declaration of war by Congress. 

  • The Vietnam War (1955-1975)
  • Persian Gulf War (1990)
  • Libya (2011)
  • Syria (2014)

Not to mention the continual bombings of Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Of course, critics will say this is all legal since Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) after 9/11. 

And that law gives the President a blank cheque on who to bomb next.

Just another reason the Constitution is “unfit to exist.”

1. President Biden Overruled Congress

Okay, you might say. These are valid examples. But Biden is different. The senior citizen President obeys the Constitution even if his predecessors don’t.

But this is obvious nonsense. In 2021, Biden revoked the Keystone XL pipeline permit. He did this through an executive order. It was one of his first acts in office.

The project had been approved by Congress (in a bipartisan manner, no less). Even Biden supporters will concede and admit this was a blatant disregard for the legislative process.

So if he can do it for oil, why not cannabis?