House demands notice when Obama ignores law

The House approved legislation Thursday that would require the executive branch to notify Congress whenever it decides against enforcing federal law.

The Faithful Execution of the Law Act is the second part of this week's Republican plan to fight back against the Obama administration's several decisions to selectively enforce federal law. The GOP says Obama has watered down immigration law by delaying some deportation proceedings, and continues to delay implementation of key parts of ObamaCare.

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On Wednesday, the House passed a more aggressive bill allowing the House or Senate to sue the administration for non-enforcement of the law. Today's bill, H.R. 3973, wouldn't go nearly as far, and only requires the government to notify Congress whenever laws are not enforced.

It passed 244-171, drawing the support of 18 Democrats.

The addition of a notification requirement is a smaller step, but Republicans said transparency is an important improvement to the current situation.

"It is hard to see the argument against such disclosures," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in Wednesday debate. "Too often, Congress has only been informed of major changes by leaks to the media.

"Congress should not have to rely on media leaks and other unofficial sources to find out that the executive branch has decided not to enforce federal laws."

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who sponsored the bill, warned that Congress needs to fight in every way it can to block efforts to turn congressional law into something less than a requirement.

"We are essentially passing suggestions, and then it is ultimately the Executive who determines what will be enforced and what will not be enforced," he said. "That is not a road, I think, we want to go down."

Under current law, the Justice Department has to report to Congress whenever it decides not to enforce a federal law based on a decision that it is unconstitutional. The bill would add to this by requiring Justice to tell Congress any time it stops enforcing a law, for any reason.

Democrats opposed to the bill said it would create more make-work for the government and waste federal money.

"H.R. 3973 would impose burdensome and wasteful requirements on the Justice Department to the detriment of its law enforcement functions," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). "They would probably have to hire new personnel and increase the debt, which, of course, the other side always talks about being passed on to the next generation."

Another Democrat said the bill is a waste of time because it won't move in the Senate, and said the House should be working on bills to help create jobs.

"We all know this is a message bill, a one-House bill that is not going anywhere in the Senate and is intended only as political propaganda against the President," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). "It is a sham, and we all know it. In fact, we have come to expect it."

On Wednesday, the White House said President Obama would veto the bill, and said it would be too burdensome on federal agencies.

"The vastly expanded reporting scheme required by the bill would be unduly burdensome and would place the Attorney General in the unprecedented position of having to be kept informed of and report on enforcement decisions made by every other Federal agency," the White House said.

Only one amendment was made in order for the bill, and the House rejected it Thursday in a 191-227 vote. It was offered by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and it would have waived the government's reporting requirement under the bill if an agency was short of funding to produce it.