There was a time when a senator would never ask an Attorney General nominee if the president could selectively enforce laws, because everybody knew the answer would be, “Of course not.” That time is long gone.
Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch says President Obama’s executive action on immigration is a reasonable use of the president’s executive discretion, but won’t identify the limits of that authority — such as whether a future Republican president could lower taxes by declining to enforce tax laws.
When Texas senator Ted Cruz asked whether a future president could apply prosecutorial discretion to tax law, Lynch was cagey in response.
“So you’re unable to give any legal judgment to this committee today on whether a subsequent president could decline to enforce the tax laws as they’re written?” Cruz asked.
“I think with respect to current or subsequent presidential action there would have to be, as in every case, a thorough review of the relevant law, the precedent, congressional precedent, the statutes at issue, in conjunction with whatever action was being proposed to see if there was in fact a legal basis or whether there was not a legal basis for the action being proposed,” Lynch answered.
Cruz followed up to ask whether future presidents could disregard labor and environmental laws via the use of prosecutorial discretion, to which Lynch also didn’t give a direct answer.
See video at the link. In spite of what Democrats might think of this, Cruz isn’t berating Lynch with hypothetical questions like that he’s trying to help her, and the Democrats, and the country. He’s pointing out that, even though ignoring the law and doing whatever you want may seem great when your guy is in charge, eventually somebody is going to be in charge whom you don’t like, and who doesn’t like you. And they’re going to use all that accumulated power to do things that you don’t like.
So, the smart thing to do would be to avoid setting a precedent of indifference to the law. But, as you can see, neither the AG nominee nor anyone else in the current administration cares anything about that.