What are the limits of the federal government, and particularly on the executive branch?  Or perhaps more accurately, are there limits to what the executive branch can do? 

That’s the real question that will be pending in the Courts as upcoming challenges to ObamaCare are considered.

IWF has written much about the challenge to the contraception mandate (see for example this paper by Hadley Heath).  This one has been particularly important to us because it has frequently been misrepresented in the media and used by the Left as part of the so-called “War on Women” theme.

The Left pretends that questioning government’s right to require all Americans to pay for contraceptive services is the same as seeking to outlaw contraception.    That’s grossly misleading.  (See Ramesh Ponnuru’s masterful take on this topic).  It’s critically important that Americans understand the difference between outlawing birth control and not forcing someone to violate their religious convictions by buying birth control for someone else.  Women have long had access to all sorts of reasonably priced contraception before the Administration moved to force people to pay for others contraception, and they would continue to have access if the contraception mandate is overturned.  What is at stake is the basic concept of freedom of association and religion, and if our government recognizes those fundamental rights.  

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal highlights another ObamaCare case which also has profound implications beyond this heath care law.  The particulars deal with whether subsidies for buying insurance should be available to those who purchase them in through the federal exchanges. 

But the more fundamental question is are we a land governed by laws or by rulers who are free to make up the laws as they see fit?  The Obama Administration clearly wishes for us to move in the latter direction, in which the executive branch can pick and choose which aspects of a law to implement, which to ignore, and which to change to fit their latest whim.  We’ve seen this not just in this case, in which the Administration wishes to ignore the clearly written language of the law (a law they helped draft) and enforce subsidies and penalties in states without a state-based exchange.  We’ve always seen this tendancy in the decision to ignore the deadline for the employer mandate and announce that insurance policies rendered  illegal under ObamaCare are a-okay for the time being (until the powers-that-be decide otherwise).

Those on the Left who are instinctively rooting for their team to win ought to consider the precedent that would be set.  Do we really want the federal government to have these powers to ignore the laws as written and just change them as they see fit?  After all, President Obama won’t always be in office, so liberals should recognize that a power granted to this President will be left in the hands of future presidents who they might not be so keen on. 

Let’s hope our Courts at least recognize the long-view and preserve our foundation of a limit government.