How Much Power Will Congress Let Obama Seize?
Would Congress stop President Barack Obama if he unilaterally declared he was raising the federal income tax rates for families that earn between $50,000 and $99,000 per year?
This week, Obama swept aside the plain and unambiguous language in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that he personally signed and fought all the way to the Supreme Court to maintain, so he could unilaterally suspend the law's requirement that the government extract penalty "payments" from businesses that do not comply with a mandate to provide their workers with health insurance.
It does not appear Congress is going to do anything about this remarkable usurpation of power.
So, if the president can unilaterally cut the payments some businesses are required by law to make to the government, why can't he unilaterally increase the payments extracted from some families?
Why can't he just set tax rates at whatever level he pleases? Why can't he do the same with spending?
Do the actual words in our laws still bind the people sworn to execute them? No. Has Obama violated his oath of office? Yes.
On March 23, 2010, Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It said that if "any applicable large employer fails to offer to its full-time employees (and their dependents) the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer sponsored plan ... for any month ... there is hereby imposed on the employer an assessable payment."
The law specified that the "term 'applicable large employer' means, with respect to a calendar year, an employer who employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees on business days during the preceding calendar year."
It then set an absolute statutory deadline for such employers to provide such coverage: "The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013."
On July 2, 2013, Obama's Treasury Department announced that the administration was changing the statute's employer-mandate deadline from Dec. 31, 2013 to the beginning of 2015.
Obama did not consult Congress about this, let alone seek a legislative change to the actual law. He simply had his Treasury Department announce that his administration was changing the law.
This week, Obama did it again. The Treasury Department announced that for businesses that have between 50 and 99 full-time workers, the deadline for providing health insurance will now be the beginning of 2016. If a business has 100 or more full-time workers, Treasury declared, they will be permitted to insure as few as 70 percent of their workers in 2015 and not be penalized.
The words of the actual law remain on the books: "this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." We now know they are meaningless.
And they are not the only words Obama has rendered meaningless.
Last July, when Obama first unilaterally suspended the employer mandate, I wrote in this column that he was violating both the Constitution and his oath of office.
Article II of the Constitution says of the president: "He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
And it requires him to take this oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to make laws. Obama is usurping that power and Congress is letting him — just as it let him usurp its power over authorizing military force when he unilaterally ordered the U.S. military to intervene in Libya's civil war.
Yet more profound than Obama's disrespect for the law and the Constitution is his disrespect for the inalienable God-given rights of individuals. As a state senator, he famously led the effort to defeat a bill that would have simply declared a born baby a person. Today, he is fighting cases in multiple federal courts, including the Supreme Court, arguing that his administration has the right, through a regulation issued by the Health and Human Services Department, to force Christians to act against their faith in providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.
The question is not whether Obama will violate the law, overstep the Constitution, and obliterate the most sacred rights of individuals, including the right to life and the freedom of conscience. He already has done all these things.
The question is whether this Congress, or the next, will do anything about it.