Obamacare and the Rule of Law
With each passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that President Obama’s health-care law is simply unworkable. Yet rather than accept reality and support full congressional repeal of the law, the administration is instead violating Obamacare and applying it selectively.
Last month, for example, President Obama unilaterally delayed the requirement that large employers provide health insurance to their workers, and he also delayed various oversight provisions. More recently, he intervened to protect the health-care benefits received by members of Congress, and his administration confirmed that it will delay enforcement of a cap on out-of-pocket costs. In addition, to help implement Obamacare, the IRS has announced that it will issue health-insurance subsidies through federal exchanges, even though the law makes clear that those subsidies can be issued only through state exchanges.
Speaking of which, the administration is reportedly running months behind schedule in preparing data security for the exchanges. Meanwhile, states across the country are projecting that Obamacare will cause individual insurance premiums to skyrocket. A new National Bureau of Economic Research paper suggests that the law may also trigger “substantial declines in aggregate employment.” It is already prompting businesses to replace full-time jobs with part-time jobs: That’s a major reason why the number of people doing part-time jobs for economic reasons soared from 7.6 million in March to 8.2 million in July.
I voted against Obamacare four years ago, and I strongly support replacing the entire thing with patient-centered reforms that actually address America’s biggest health-care challenges. Indeed, my colleagues and I are ready to work with President Obama to give businesses and individuals permanent relief from a public-policy debacle. That’s how the legislative process functions: If the president and members of Congress object to a law — or a portion of a law — because they think it’s bad policy, they work together to fix it. What the president is doing with Obamacare is quite different: He is effectively picking and choosing which parts of the law to enforce, based on convenience and political expediency.
This isn’t the first time President Obama has taken such liberties. Time and again, he has shown that if a law proves inconvenient — or unpopular among his supporters — he will ignore it.
We saw this during the 2009 government-run Chrysler bankruptcy process, when the company’s secured bondholders received much less for their loans than the United Auto Workers pension funds did. We saw it during the run-up to the Solyndra bankruptcy in 2011, when the Obama administration violated the law by making taxpayers subordinate to private lenders. We saw it when the president made unconstitutional appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We saw it when he announced a moratorium on the enforcement of certain immigration laws. We saw it again when his administration unilaterally waived key requirements in the 1996 welfare-reform law and the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.
Government by executive waiver is no way to run a democracy. Our Constitution obliges the president to make sure that all laws are “faithfully executed.” Under President Obama, inconvenient or unpopular legal requirements have repeatedly been swept aside by executive fiat.
If this president — or any president — is allowed to selectively enforce the law based on political expediency, our democracy will be gravely weakened. The principle at stake here is much larger than Obamacare: It’s about the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.