Washington (CNN) - Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah were in full legal mode in separate speaking appearances at the conservative Federalist Society Thursday, blasting the Obama administration for what they call unconstitutional moves.
Cruz, the tea party darling of the Defund Obamacare movement and partial government shutdown, blasted President Barack Obama for picking and choosing which laws to enforce, namely through new directives to government lawyers in the implementation of drug and immigration policy.
“This administration simply says, ‘We don’t like these laws so we’re not going to enforce them,’” Cruz told the conservative and libertarian lawyers who comprise the Federalist Society’s membership. “That’s profoundly dangerous.”
Particularly troubling for the Harvard Law graduate and former Texas solicitor general is “the radical advocacy of the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama for unchecked federal authority,” Cruz said.
Cruz blasted DOJ attorneys for the arguments made on cases including tracking a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant and the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to curb the actions of private citizens on their own property.
“These positions are not reasonable litigating positions within the bounds of ordinary disagreements. These positions are extreme,” Cruz said.
Lee, in turn, decided to blast Obama - a fellow lawyer and Harvard Law grad like Cruz - for attempting to circumvent Senate review of nominations through “recess” nominations while the chamber was still in pro forma session. Those nominations were eventually thrown out.
“The current presidential administration has I believe violated the Constitution’s separation of powers in numerous and some cases, completely unprecedented ways,” Lee said, also noting White House resistance to Congressional investigations, especially by invoking executive privilege and refusing to cooperate fully over the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning program.
Congress should have done far more to fight back against the recess nominations, the tea party freshman said. Instead, “we did absolutely nothing. We have to do something when that happens.”
Lee blasted his own party for not following up on a threat to block nominations after pledging to do so, with several Republicans voting to approve nomination of Richard Cordray for consumer protection chief.
“Had we been unified, we could have taken a number of actions to make clear to President Obama that his flagrantly unconstitutional recess appointments would not be tolerated,” said the former assistant U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City and graduate of Brigham Young law school.
Those actions could have included blocking nominees and opposing any Obama-backed legislation, action that didn’t happen, Lee said.
“It wouldn’t really matter the specifics so long as we sent the unequivocal message to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and made the President face real consequences for his unconstitutional actions.”