Our Autocratic President
The law means nothing to Barack Obama. In the President’s sheltered little world, he is the law. As King Louis XIV famously proclaimed, “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state”). Nothing stood between him and France. They were one and the same.
I fear our democratically-elected President shares King Louis’ mentality, believing he has the power to “do what must be done,” legality aside. To him, the Constitution is but a piece of paper, a 250 year-old document with recommendations as to how things should be done. In no way is it a binding contract between the government and its constituents. As long as it seems right, it can and should be done.
This deeply-disturbing mentality has always been a part of the President’s repertoire, but only recently has it become common knowledge (you can thank the media for that). It started roughly a month ago, when the President unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s much-lauded “employer mandate,” which would require businesses with more than 50 employees to provide those employees with approved health insurance, to January 1, 2015.
Obama defended his actions in the following manner: “With respect to health care, I didn’t simply choose to delay this on my own. This was in consultation with businesses all across the country, many of whom are supportive of the Affordable Care Act, but — and many of whom, by the way, are already providing health insurance to their employees but were concerned about the operational details of changing their HR operations if they’ve got a lot of employees, which could be costly for them, and them suggesting that there may be easier ways to do this.”
In other words, he finally came to the conclusion that the mandate was flawed. This, of course, is some serious progress for Mr. Obama, progress I must commend him for. Commendations aside, though the President’s decision to delay the “employer mandate” was a good one in and of itself, the authority he invoked in doing so is based on nothing but thin air. He simply does not have the power to stop the implementation of duly-approved federal laws without Congressional approval (I should note that the House recently approved a bill that would grant the President the authority to delay the employer mandate. In response, Obama called the bill “unnecessary” and threatened to veto it for political reasons. At the time of publication, the Senate has yet to act on the proposal.).
Article II, Section III of the United States Constitution states the following: “…he [the President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed…” I don’t need to clarify what this means. The section is self-explanatory. The Executive is required to make sure that U.S. law is “faithfully executed,” that is, to make sure that U.S. law is implemented as the Congress and President originally intended.
When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, its members voted for the 2014 implementation of an employer mandate. In Title I, Subtitle F, Part II, Section 1513 of the Affordable Care Act, titled “Shared Responsibility For Employers,” Congress amended “Chapter 43 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.” Among these amendments, Congress added new rules and punishments for companies choosing not to comply with the Affordable Care Act. These amendments, which, among other things, define how much large companies will be fined for not offering approved health insurance to their employees, are collectively known as the “employer mandate.”
The problem with President Obama’s “decision” lies in the very last words of Section 1513, the section which, as noted, defines the premises of the “employer mandate.” I quote: “The amendments made by this section [Section 1513] shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.”
Simply put, faithfully executing the policies outlined in the Affordable Care Act, as is incumbent upon the Executive branch, would have entailed implementing the employer mandate by January 1, 2014.
By deciding against implementing the “employer mandate” on time, President Obama chose not to faithfully execute the Affordable Care Act. Problem is, according to the Constitution, he does not have the authority to make that decision. He must “…take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed…” Despite Mr. Obama’s clear opinion on the matter, the Constitution does not allow the President to pick and choose which parts of the law he enforces. He must enforce the law in its entirety, whether he likes it or not.
Of course, as is always the case, the buck didn’t stop there. Trampling on the Constitution is one of the President’s specialties. At about the same time he decided to unconstitutionally delay the implementation of the “employer mandate,” his administration announced that all members of Congress and their staff would continue to receive subsidies for their insurance premiums even after switching to Obamacare (a switch mandated by the Affordable Care Act). This “employer subsidy” will cover roughly 70 percent of the cost of Congress’ healthcare premiums.
This announcement raises more questions concerning the President’s knowledge of his own power. According to Charles Krauthammer, it just so happens that the Affordable Care Act does not allow subsidies for “anyone that well-off.” Simply put, the President chose, once again, to ignore the Constitution and only enforce certain parts of the law.
Obama’s lack of legal knowledge (ironic, considering he’s a constitutional lawyer by profession) also seems to have spread to other members of his administration. This week, maligned Attorney General Eric Holder decided to ignore duly-approved federal law and, according to NPR, instruct “federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.”
I don’t know enough about federal drug laws to argue whether or not this idea is a good one. It garnered bipartisan support from Congress, so that’s certainly a start. Nevertheless, I do know one thing: Holder’s attorneys do not have the authority to deliberately ignore federal law, period.
As United States Attorney General, Eric Holder’s job is to uphold federal law. If he doesn’t like the law, he has every right to petition Congress to change it. He does not, however, have the authority to instruct his attorneys to willfully ignore it. Holder’s order blatantly abuses the authority conferred him by the Judiciary Act of 1789 and exemplifies how little the Obama administration cares for federal law.
Autocracy is a disease. Sometimes it strikes swiftly, with a military coup or violent rebellion. Sometimes, in our case, it sits dormant for many years, slowly breaking down our immune system and destroying our ability to fight back. President Obama is only the most recent example of Presidential autocracy. Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all had serious shortcomings when it came to understanding constitution.
Obama’s complete disregard for the Constitution isn’t new. In attacking his actions, I don’t mean to single him out; he’s merely the continuation of more than 50 years of unconstitutional executive leadership.
The Constitution is the foundation of our country. Without it, America cannot stand. President Obama is just the latest in a series of tragic executive mistakes. Like so many Presidents before him, he gives the Constitution no respect. A democratic President reveres the Constitution; an autocratic President spits on it.