In a 60 Minutes interview airing Sunday, House Speaker Paul Ryan promised that President-elect Donald Trump will respect the Constitution.
“We’ve talked about Article I of the Constitution, the separation of powers,” he said. “He feels very strongly, actually, that under President Obama’s watch, he stripped a lot of power away from the Constitution, away from the legislative branch of government, and we want to reset the balance of power so that people in the Constitution are rightfully restored.”
His tone might be a surprise. Even though Ryan endorsed Trump during the presidential campaign, they’ve publicly had a tepid relationship.
Trump has been criticized since it looks like he’s going to take lots of unilateral action as president. For example, his rhetoric about fighting terrorism, managing trade deals, and addressing crime seems to imply the expansion of executive power, not a reduction.
Congress technically restrains the power of the presidency, but it’s a pretty complicated topic. Scholars generally agree that presidents in recent decades have each augmented the office and their successors will use the new powers, regardless of political affiliation.
“Every president expands the power of the presidency,” Neal Devins, a law professor at the College of William & Mary, told The Washington Post in a July report. “This is a constant pattern. They never shrink the presidency. A President Trump could say, ‘I’m going to use the Obama playbook’ and go pretty far. The difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not going to be one of lawlessness but of the policies they pursue.”
In a similar vein, Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage recently explored the surprising continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations, at least when it comes to national security.
So a Trump presidency that actually shrinks the executive branch would be unlike any administration in recent years.
[Screengrab via CBS]