Executive Power

January 28, 2000

About two weeks ago, President Clinton created three new national monuments without congressional approval and without a great deal of media coverage. Now I love national parks and national monuments, so I don't quarrel with what the president did. I do disagree with how he did it.

This president knows that he cannot pass much through Congress so he has found creative ways to legislate without using Congress. This has included issuing lots of executive orders and using obscure laws and precedents so that he can circumvent Congress.

A good example came in 1996 when he announced the creation of the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument in Utah. He set off a firestorm of criticism for a number of reasons. First, there was a newspaper story talking about the pending decision 11 days before it took place. The Clinton administration continued to deny the story until the end. Officials were formally notified of his action the morning of his announcement.

Second, there was no public comment. After the fact, Interior Department officials argued that the 11 days of denial constituted sufficient public comment. Third, the decision was based on a novel interpretation of the 1906 Antiquities Act. Through this obscure act, President Clinton created a national monument the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Well, he did it again two weeks ago. And this time, the governor of Arizona and Senator John McCain are furious. The House even passed a bill requiring public comment at least 60 days prior to using the Antiquities Act. But since that bill hasn't passed the Senate, it isn't law yet.

President Clinton chose to ignore the clear intent of Congress by unilaterally creating this new national monument. It's time for Congress to reign in the abuse of executive power.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.