How far can the President push the "bully pulpit"?

Bad news for some of you on the SDMB:

I’m now the President of the United States.

But I do have a question for you:

As POTUS I tell Representatives/Senators in Congress about the laws I don’t like and want repealed. They tell me GFY and refuse to repeal such laws.

FYI we’re talking the law that gives the FDA the power to ban flavored cigarettes and caffeinated beer, the law against machine guns made after 1986, the laws that forces states to have mandatory seat belt laws, .08, etc., etc…

I go national and say that because CONgress will not repeal such violations to all of the Bill of Rights, I, as The President of the United States, will immediately pardon any individual, corporation, or states that violates such provisions.

As POTUS can I get away with that?

Can the President pardon a state? Can he actively encourage states/individuals/corporations to violate Federal laws because they will be immediately pardoned?

The President’s pardon power is theoretically unlimited. Theoretically because no one has ever tested any real limits.

So a President could undoubtedly do this. The real question is, for how long? The Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet could declare the President unfit per the 25th Amendment and Congress could then vote to remove. Or Congress could impeach and convict the President.

People really, really don’t want the President acting as a dictator. It wouldn’t take long.

How is using the power of pardon to get the government off the backs of the states and the people being a dictator? I’ve never heard of a “dictator of freedom”.

You should read some Rousseau.

But seriously, the idea behind the power of the executive to grant pardons is that it would be used sparingly and for generally apolitical purposes. A president deciding that he’s going to pardon everyone, now and in the future, who violates some federal statute would be seen as overstepping his bounds, subverting the will of Congress, and thus impeachment-fodder.

You really need to take this to GD if that’s your point.

My point is obvious. If the president tries to change established law unilaterally it will not be well received. The country likes checks and balances. Only in a fantasy world can anyone believe that everyone will agree with you about what laws should or shouldn’t be obeyed and cheer as the president takes control over the country’s laws.

My understanding is that the power of the president to grant pardons and reprieves deals with criminal matters only. So, in the case of the DUI laws, Congress has passed a law which would withhold a certain percentage of highway funds if they do not pass a law that enforces DUI laws at .08. If a state doesn’t pass such a law, the president could not “pardon the state” to allow them to receive the full amount of highway funds.

However, there’s no firm answer to the question other than presidents will generally understand that Congress holds the ultimate authority to judge whether a president’s actions are constitutional, and that impeachment is solely a matter for the legislative branch to decide. Actions by a president that would push too hard against the enumerated powers of Congress is likely to be weighed by the executive as to whether he risks removal from office.

In the example used in the OP of the president offering pardons to people in order to encourage them to break a law passed by Congress, I would say that there is nothing in the Constitution prohibiting the president from using his pardon power in that way, but that Congress would have a very good chance of impeaching the president for doing so. (Such such laws would doubtlessly pass with the support of 2/3rds of Congress to override a veto.)

The President only has power to pardon federal offenses. The laws concerning, say, seat belts are state laws, despite being federally-encouraged, and so someone driving without a seat belt would not be subject to a presidential pardon.

But I’m not talking about an individual in that instance. I’m talking about a state that refuses to pass such a law and, therefore, gets highway funds from the feds withheld. Could the POTUS pardon the states inaction on this issue?

No, he couldn’t. Not enacting a law isn’t a federal crime.

As had been pointed out refusing to enact such a law is not a crime, and there is nothing for the POTUS to pardon. Congress has sole control of the purse strings and if the state refuses to play along, then funds do not have to be allocated to the state. POTUS can respond by vetoing every appropriations bill that punishes a state, but sooner rather than later even Congress critters of his own party will tire of that act and the veto will be regularly overrun or the POTUS would be impeached.

Congress is not a rubber stamp body that does what the POTUS tells it to do. As it has shown many a time. This is fundamentally one of the things that separates governments like the United States from dictators. Every two years a new Congress is elected and the POTUS has to work with it to get anything done.

See my response. The president could not pardon a state to allow it to receive its full amount of highway funds.

In order to give someone money belonging to the government, the person doing so must have the authority. This authority to spend derives from the budget passed. If the law states that the state is not entitled to that money, then someone handing out that money is either making a mistake - and refusal to return it is a crime - or the person handing it out is committing a crime. The president might pardon others, but they can also rest easy in the knowledge that unless they get a clear pardon before the impeachment happens, they too could go down with him.

If the president makes a point that he does not have to obey congress on a fundamental matter like only spending what is authorized, then sooner or later congress will tire of the game and impeach him. Playing by the rules is fundamental to organized government.

The congress can always impeach any judges that refuse to convict a clear violation of the law. The president himself will presumably end up in a “night of the long knives” firing anyone who refuses to break the rules along with him.

I can only imagine such a scenario when the dispute is so fundamental that the two sides cannot reconcile. Politics is the art of compromise, and one facet is to recognize that if the votes are against you, you’ve lost. You cannot ignore the process; if you do, the country descends into chaos, since in this situation half the country would support one way and half the other.

The last time this happened, it took Generals Grant and Sherman to straighten things out. The closest example today would be, maybe, the abortion debate. Yes this is straying into GD territory but consider - even the most radical anti-abortion types do not try to refuse to obey the law (except the people that blow things up). They may pass laws nibbling at the edge of what the Supreme Court says is legal, and then see if the next ruling allows taking back that much. But everyone plays by the rules as set - otherwise there may as well be no rules.