Published January 16, 2013
President Obama, for the fourth time in five years, has notified congressional leaders that his budget will not arrive on time.
By law, it is due no later than the first Monday in February. But he's not alone -- the very body that set that and other budget deadlines hasn't done a good job of complying with them in recent years either.
And the budget isn't the only issue where the administration and Congress have taken a lax attitude to following or defending the law, from immigration to gay marriage.
Since the late 1990s, Congress has often failed to meet its obligation to agree on an annual budget. That has created numerous complications, including the increased use of temporary, short-term funding measures -- cobbled together in repeated moments of crisis.
Economist Patrick Louis Knudsen of the conservative Heritage Foundation says these actions aren't optional.
"The Budget Act says Congress shall complete action on a budget resolution every year - not that you may do this or you can do it if you want to or would you kindly? It says you have to do this."
And what punishments await lawbreaking lawmakers who fail to comply with the Budget Act?
"There are none," Knudsen said, adding, "the penalties are suffered by taxpayers in America, not by the politicians."
The Obama administration is also taking heat over prosecutorial discretion directives issued through the Department of Homeland Security, instructing law enforcement officers not to begin deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants the administration does not view as high-priority targets.
A group of federal immigration officers is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, claiming they are being forced to "violate their oaths to uphold and support federal law." Their complaint also alleges that the executive branch is violating its obligation to "faithfully execute the law, as required by ... the United States Constitution."
Attorney Thomas Dupree, a former Justice Department official, says the government may have prosecutorial discretion, but he says it's legitimate to argue that it can go too far.
"What I think we see this administration doing is taking the concept and expanding it globally, to encompass classes of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, which is a version - an interpretation - of prosecutorial discretion that is essentially unknown in our nation's history," Dupree said.
The Justice Department has also faced criticism for its decision, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011, that it would no longer mount a legal defense to the Defense of Marriage Act. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Holder said, "I recommended to the president that we not defend the statute, and he agreed with that recommendation."
Holder has deemed the law "unconstitutional."
Due to the DOJ's failure to defend the duly-passed law, the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has taken up the efforts. On March 27 the legal fight over the law will land at the Supreme Court, where the justices will decide whether or not a majority of them believe the law passes constitutional muster.