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Columnist: Author of tax controversy is president himself

There it is, prominently and unambiguously stated in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes.

As anyone who has even basic familiarity with the Constitution knows, the nation’s preeminent legal document is divided along lines that separate power and its prerogatives, dividing the responsibilities of government among the country’s legislative, executive and judicial branches.

A core principle of the so-called “separation of powers” that is an integral concept of American governance is that Congress passes laws and the president — through the executive branch of government — administers them.

Of course, that distinction is not so easily observed and carried through on centuries following its crafting. In fact, the executive branch has greatly expanded in scope and authority since the creation of the Constitution. These days, through congressional deferral to agency dictates, presidential use of executive action that transcends any requirement of legislative approval, and other means, much power in the realm of law making has passed from Congress to the president.

Notwithstanding, a recent announcement by President Obama’s press secretary that the president is “very interested” in raising taxes through executive action that bypasses congressional approval has generated a significant buzz on Capitol Hill.

In other words, there is now a bona-fide tax controversy regarding the creation of new tax laws, with some national legislators contacting the president and key officials within the executive branch to cite concerns. They say they are worried that unilateral actions taken by the president to make new law could equate to executive overreach and unlawfully interfere with congressional powers in the area.

Bickering between the branches is hardly something new, of course. Where the subject matter revolves around potential tax law changes, though, the rhetoric can seem especially charged, with the particulars commanding high-profile media attention.

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