The Obamacare Assault on the Rule of Law
Mere hours after senior federal Judge Roger Vinson, a United States Naval Academy graduate, became the second federal judge to find Obamacare’s Section 1501 (the individual mandate) unconstitutional, an anonymous White House official called in to question Judge Vinson’s entire ruling, telling reporters, "There's something thoroughly odd and unconventional about the analysis." The only thing "odd and unconventional" here is that a White House official felt it imperative to undermine the legitimacy of a coequal branch of government. Unfortunately this incident just fits into a larger pattern of behavior that calls into question just how far this Administration will bend the rule of law to protect President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment: Obamacare.
According to Heritage legal expert Robert Alt, Judge Vinson’s declaratory judgment binds the parties to the suit, which includes 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and the federal government. This means that, absent a court-issued stay, Obamacare cannot be further implemented as it pertains to these 26 states. So the White House now faces a simple choice: Will President Obama abide by a valid decision by a federal district court, or will he unilaterally ignore the rule of law? If the past is any indicator, the rule of law is in for a continued beating.
As former Member of Congress and Heritage Distinguished Fellow Ernest Istook documents, the Obamacare legislation contained unprecedented billions of dollars in advance implementation appropriations. The advance year appropriations were designed to completely bypass Congress’s annual budget process and go far beyond standard spending decisions for the current and following fiscal years. Some of these advance-implementation appropriations stretch 10 years into the future, far beyond President Obama’s term in office.
Then there are the hundreds of waivers reaching millions of Americans that are being granted piecemeal by the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Just last week, HHS granted 500 new waivers, more than tripling the number of groups exempt from Obamacare. Unions that gave heavily to President Obama’s election efforts accounted for 40 percent of all employees exempted from Obamacare last week. In all, more than 700 entities are now exempt from Obamacare, totaling 2.1 million people. Last night before the Senate voted on party lines against repeal of Obamacare, Senator Jim DeMint (R–SC) explained why this selective enforcement of the law must stop: “Most Americans don’t play these political games. They don’t have lobbyists and PACs, but I think they should all get a waiver too. I think we should name this repeal bill that we will vote on today ‘the great American waiver.’”
Health care is by far not the only arena where the Obama Administration has sacrificed the rule of law for its own political expediency. It has shredded the Constitution’s Appointments Clause to install its favored bureaucrats at regulatory agencies. Then there was the “outrageous and illegal” takeover of Chrysler, the shakedown of BP, the assertion that President Obama can rewrite our nation’s immigration laws simply by not enforcing them, the refusal to enforce anti-voting-fraud laws, and, back to Obamacare, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius threats to silence insurance companies.
One can understand why the White House was so visibly shaken by its federal court Obamacare loss. The 26 states that are party to the Florida suit will account for 266 electoral college votes in the next election. Throw in Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, where another federal court has ruled against Obamacare, and that brings the total to 279, which is more than the 270 needed to elect the next President of the United States.
But political expediency is never an excuse to skirt the rule of law, especially for our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Congress could help the President make the right decision. In a couple of months, when the current continuing resolution that is funding the federal government runs out, conservatives could attach language to the next spending bill requiring all Obama appointees to abide by Judge Vinson’s decision. You can see The Heritage Foundation’s “The Case Against Obamacare” here and the “Impact of Obamacare” here.