July 12 2013
Barone: Barack the Dispenser
Lead of the Day:
On Obamacare, as on immigration enforcement and welfare requirements, Barack Obama is following the course that cost King James II his throne. He is dispensing with the law.
Barone is author of a history of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which was triggered in part by James II’s overreach, and which Barone hails as the beginning of the liberties enshrined in our Revolution. (Just for the record, this isn’t the first time King James II has come up this week with regard to the president--here.)
Some Catholics might be sympathetic to the particular English law that James II tried to abrogate. It was a law requiring members of the government and military belong to the Church of England. Our Founding Fathers included in the Constitution a prohibition against a “religious Test.”
But our Founders also established in the Constitution that the president doesn't have the right to change laws he didn't like. It goes back to James II’s fight with Parliament, which led to the English Bill of Rights. This document stipulated that the king could not dispense with the law. We inherited this ideal, and thus the Constitution’s requirement that our president cannot dispense with the law is the bedrock of our way of government.
Barone writes that the administration’s announcement—via blog post!—that it will not enforce ObamaCare’s employer mandate until such time as it is more convenient for the administration is dispensing with the law. The law gives the date when the mandate “shall” go into effect.
This is a serious threat to our form of government:
Dispensing with the rules is a game that can be played by two. What if, as American Commitment’s Phil Kerpen suggested, a President Mitt Romney decided to dispense with all the provisions of Obamacare?
Or what if another Republican president instructed the Internal Revenue Service not to collect income taxes over 35 percent of adjusted gross income? Enforcing only the parts of laws that you like or find politically convenient can start verging on tyranny.
That’s what the English came to think back in 1688. King James believed in the divine right of kings and governed for several years without Parliament.
But in time, he forfeited the trust of both the Whigs and the Tories (yes, there was polarized politics back then, too). When William of Orange came over the Channel with an army, James fled the country.
Obama does not face a similar fate. But his unwillingness to faithfully execute his own signature law is a confession of incompetence — the incompetence of the architects of Obamacare, the incompetence of Obama administrators, even the incompetence of the government generally.
It erodes the president’s political capital. House Republicans may block an immigration bill because they fear Obama would not enforce its border-security provisions.
For now, Obama’s dispensing is getting pushback from Congress and could be challenged in the courts. And more voters may come to believe that they’d like to dispense with Obamacare.
Robert Costa at NRO reports that GOP congressmen are “huddling” to use the administration’s delay of the employer mandate to pass a one-year delay of the individual mandate. Rep. Eric Cantor has suggested that Congress pass a bill to that effect that will be coupled with the delay in the employer mandate:
“After both bills pass we combine them into one bill to send to the Senate,” he said. “On the delay of the employer mandate, we will make the point that the president doesn’t have the authority to just ignore the law. It will also force Democrats into the position of supporting or opposing the president.”
Well and good. But the Republicans are letting us down if they don’t keep the Constitutional issues in the forefront.