Former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, contends Congress needs to do a much better job of keeping President Obama "in check."
He was speaking in a podcast interview posted on his Ron Paul Institute website.
"I'm sure the founders would be astounded that this responsibility of the Congress to keep the executive branch in check was given up so easily," Paul said.
Speaking with libertarian commentator and author Charles Goyette, the former congressman explained that the usurpation of power by the Oval Office happened gradually.
"It was always conceded that you have to have a strong president [in foreign policy]," he said.
That power became "contagious," said Paul, and spread to other policy areas.
His comments came as debate over Obama's use of executive orders has intensified.
"It's a defect in our understanding of our system," Paul said. "The founders were well-intentioned, they devised a system with separation of powers, a balance of powers, with Congress leading the three areas."
Paul said Congress is "supposed to be the most important body."
"Yet Congress for some reason – I imagine it's also a reflection of what so many of us have been taught in school – [succumbed]," he said
"It's something I fought about all the time ... the responsibility that Congress has, and not just always defer to the president."
He pointed to Congress' responsibility for trade agreements and investigations.
"Who's supposed to investigate the NSA, the FBI?" he asked.
"One thing I think that is good coming out of this thing with the NSA, more and more Americans are skeptical of the government, are not depending on the government to tell them the truth," he said.
WND reported this week Obama himself once said executive orders can't simply be substituted for legislation from Congress, because of the Constitution and the fact that the United States is a "nation of laws."
The president has been quoted several times in recent weeks saying that if he doesn't get what he wants from Congress, he'll do it himself through executive orders.
"We're not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we're providing Americans the kind of help they need. I've got a pen, and I've got a phone," Obama said Jan. 14.
"And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating."
He's already used executive orders to seal presidential records, create commissions, advance an pro-amnesty agenda and more.
In a lengthy interview article for the New Yorker, author David Remnick recounted Obama's confession in a fundraising speech.
"If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so, but we're also a nation of laws," Obama said.
Remnick wrote, "Then it happened again: another heckler broke into Obama's speech. A man in the balcony repeatedly shouted out, 'Executive order!,' demanding that the president bypass Congress with more unilateral [immigration] actions. Obama listened with odd indulgence. Finally, he said, 'I'm going to actually pause on this issue, because a lot of people have been saying this lately on every problem, which is just, 'Sign an executive order and we can pretty much do anything and basically nullify Congress.'"
Many in the crowd, Remnick wrote, applauded.
"Yes! Nullify it! Although Obama has infuriated the right with relatively modest executive orders on gun control and some stronger ones on climate change, he has issued the fewest of any modern president, except George H.W. Bush," wrote Remnick.
"'Wait, wait, wait,' Obama said. 'Before everybody starts clapping, that's not how it works. We've got this Constitution, we've got this whole thing about separation of powers. So there is no shortcut to politics, and there's no shortcut to democracy."
A top legal commentator, former Judge Andrew Napolitano, told WND there are few limits on what Obama could include in his orders, and fighting back is a long and hard course.
"There really is no line," the judge told WND in an interview Wednesday. "We have the welfare state, the warfare state, we also have the administrative state."
That, he said, allows a president through his appointees to issues rules and regulations, impose requirements and change America.
Only when a federal agency "abuses its discretion," as determined by the courts, are the reins drawn, Napolitano explained.
Even the the far left-leaning FactCheck wrote of Obama: "It's true that President Obama is increasingly using his executive powers in the face of staunch Republican opposition in Congress. He's changed federal policies on immigration and welfare and appointed officials without congressional approval."
It was a presidential aide to Bill Clinton, Paul Begala, who put the controversy into perspective back in July 1998.
"Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool," he said, delighting in how the Clinton machine was able to simply dictate what it wanted to have happen.
If Obama's goal is more executive actions, he's been preparing for it. He recently appointed John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress, as his counselor.
Podesta specializes in the use of executive authority to bypass Congress, particularly to enact "progressive" change.
It was reported Podesta will help the White House on “matters related to the health care law, administration organization and executive actions,” with particular focus on so-called climate-change issues, according to a person familiar with the plans.
In November 2010, he co-authored a 48-page Center for American Progress paper titled "The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change."
"The U.S. Constitution and the laws of our nation grant the president significant authority to make and implement policy," wrote Podesta in the paper's introduction.
"These authorities can be used to ensure positive progress on many of the key issues facing the country through executive orders, rulemaking, agency management, convening and creating public-private partnerships, commanding the armed forces … diplomacy."
"In Article I Section I of the Constitution we learn that all legislative powers reside in Congress. The executive branch has the responsibility to execute the laws passed by Congress. An executive order is not legislation. It is an order issued by the president to enforce laws passed by Congress. This is backed by the declaration that the president 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed' made in Article II, Section 3, Clause 5. Thus, executive orders can only be used to carry out the will of Congress (which is only supposed to be passing laws in line with the Constitution), and not to issue new policy."