In the course of Barack Obama’s more than five years in office, much has been written about his penchant for arrogating to himself legislative powers that, we were taught in school, have historically resided with Congress. While it’s true that some of his predecessors attempted at various times to push the envelope of presidential power – FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush come immediately to mind – for the most part presidents have focused on military and foreign policy issues where they were accorded great leeway.
Mr. Obama’s latest “amendment” of the Obamacare law, however, has elevated the arrogation of legislative power to an art form. And he has done so for blatantly political reasons.
Most of us are familiar with the president’s reaction to congressional refusal to enact laws or amendments he had urged. The so-called Dream Act would have provided a way for illegal aliens to become citizens. When Congress balked, he simply ordered the Immigration and Naturalization Service not to deport them. Similarly, he ordered the Justice Department not to prosecute anyone running afoul of the federal law criminalizing the use of medical marijuana.
He acted in the same way with respect to the Defense of Marriage Act, ordering the Justice Department not to enforce it or to defend it in the Supreme Court. So too with regard to the No Child Left Behind Act and “cap-and-trade” legislation.
When the Senate wouldn’t confirm his picks for the National Labor Review Board under its “advise and consent” power, the president simply declared, in direct contradiction of Senate rules, that the Senate was not in session and appointed his choices through a “recess appointment” ruse.
And there is much, much more. But nothing can compare in sheer brazenness with last week’s announcement by the Obama administration that consumers would be allowed to keep, for two years, health insurance policies that do not meet the standards of Obamacare – in direct violation of that law.
As The New York Times put it in a March 6 news story,
The reprieve was the latest in a series of waivers, deadline extensions and unilateral actions by the administration that have drawn criticism from the law’s opponents and supporters, many saying President Obama was testing the limits of his powers….
The Times article also noted the political motivations behind the decision:
Under pressure from Democratic candidates, who are struggling to defend the president’s signature domestic policy, Mr. Obama in November announced a one-year reprieve for insurance plans that did not meet the minimum coverage requirements of the 2010 health care law.… Wednesday’s action goes much further, essentially stalling for two more years one of the central tenets of the much-debated law, which was supposed to eliminate what White House officials called substandard insurance and junk policies….
Leave it to the Times, however, to portray such developments in an astonishingly benevolent tone, as it did in an editorial on the subject the same day:
The Obama administration announced a new policy on Wednesday that will allow many people to renew their existing insurance policies for two more years even though the policies don’t provide the comprehensive coverage and consumer protections required by the Affordable Care Act. The move is designed to provide political cover for Democratic senators facing tough re-election campaigns in Republican-leaning states where the president is especially unpopular….
Ideally, President Obama would not have extended the period for retaining the less-comprehensive policies, but in the current political environment, he opted to take a step to protect healthcare reform against a Republican takeover in the Senate.
Granted, the Times is constitutionally incapable of finding any wrong in Mr. Obama’s policies, but it’s hard to recall such a lack of concern with a president’s utter subjugation of the public weal to his own ends. If this were Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, the Times would be calling for hearings of impeachment.