At an August 9 press conference, President Barack Obama said that when Congress won’t agree to what he wants, he would act alone. That statement, which he has made before, should send shivers through freedom-loving Americans.
The president was asked where he gets the authority to delay the Affordable Care Act ‘s employer mandate, even though the law states that the mandate “shall” go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. The Obama administration had announced the delay on July 3, without seeking Congress’ help in changing the law.
In response, Obama said that “in a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the Speaker and say, you know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law … so let’s make a technical change to the law. That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do.”
But Obama explained that he took a different route because Republicans control the House of Representatives and ardently oppose Obamacare.
Obama’s statement reveals how disconnected this president is from this nation’s history and constitutional principles. Divided government is the norm in the United States. Most modern presidents have had to govern with an uncooperative Congress or at least one house of Congress controlled by the other major party. With the exception of Richard Nixon, these presidents ??? from Eisenhower to Reagan to Clinton and both Bushes ??? have not tried to exempt themselves from the Constitution.
Article II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution commands the president to faithfully execute the law. Courts have consistently ruled that presidents have little discretion about it. President Obama can’t pick and choose what parts of the Affordable Care Act he enforces and when.
The framers duplicated the safeguards their English ancestors had fought hard to win against tyrannical monarchs. Most important, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 barred an executive from suspending the law.
The tug and pull between the president and an uncooperative Congress is what the framers intended.
It’s checks and balances in action. Obama has no patience for this constitutional system. In June 2012, the president announced that he would stop enforcing parts of the nation’s immigration laws, because “We can’t wait” for Congress to offer relief to young illegal immigrants brought into the country by their parents.
Now the president is rewriting the Affordable Care Act. Delaying the employer mandate is not a mere “tweak.” Because individuals will be required to have insurance as of Jan. 1, 2014, or pay a penalty, some 10 million currently uninsured or underinsured workers who would have gotten coverage at work under the employer mandate will now have to pay the penalty or go to the exchanges. That means more people enrolling on the exchanges, more dependence on government and a bigger bill for taxpayers it’s not the law that Congress enacted.
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has urged Congress to vote against any continuing resolution to fund the federal government after Sept. 30, as long as it funds this distorted version of Obamacare.
“Laws are supposed to be made by Congress, not … (by) the president,” Lee explained. If the administration is not prepared to fully enforce Obamacare as enacted, including the employer mandate, it should agree to delay the entire law and remove its funding from the budget.
Sadly, most members of Congress are too busy looking out for themselves to stop the president from chipping away at the Constitution. Last week, Republicans and Democrats conspired with the president to weasel out of Sect. 1312 of Obamacare, which requires members of Congress to get health coverage on the newly created exchanges. Congress was happy to let the president unconstitutionally give them a special taxpayer funded subsidy that no one else in America earning $174,000 would get.
Such self-dealing brings to mind what Benjamin Franklin warned about when he and his fellow framers finished writing the Constitution. It’s a republic, said Franklin, “If you can keep it.”
Betsy McCaughey is a former Lt. governor of New York and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”