Obama vs. Cruz on Executive Power

by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Many analysts, including my friend and NRO contributor Andy McCarthy, have pointed out what a legal charade President Obama’s supposed “fix” of the problem caused by Obamacare is. They’re right. But the problem runs much deeper.

The law, as everyone is now aware, is unfairly and needlessly canceling the health-insurance policies of millions of Americans. But in all of the discussion of the president’s news conference last Thursday, another event that also took place in Washington that day has been almost overlooked. It could not have provided a better illustration of the fierce debate taking place in Washington about the power of the federal government and the structure of our constitutionally-based system. And preservation of our freedoms may depend on who wins this debate.

At virtually the same time that President Obama was holding his news conference announcing that he was allowing insurance companies to continue into 2014 the policies they’ve had to cancel because they don’t have all of the goodies stuffed into them that the administration wants, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) was giving a speech just up the street from the White House at the Federalist Society convention. He was warning the nation about the dangers posed by an executive who does not seem to think there are any limits on his power.

As Cruz said in his speech and in a report his staff distributed at the Mayflower Hotel, this administration has repeatedly advanced radical theories of sweeping federal power that are dangerous to our liberty. The administration’s view of federal power is so extreme that since January 2012, the highest court in the land has unanimously rejected its claims nine times. Even President Obama’s own former solicitor general, Elena Kagan, in one case involving religious freedom, expressed her amazement at the position the government advocated.

Mind you, President Obama could have dealt with the insurance cancelations by utilizing the normal course of constitutionally sanctioned action: asking members of Congress to introduce an amendment to the health-care law, debating the bill, holding a vote, and then signing the bill into law if approved by both houses. In fact, just such a bill, sponsored by Representative Fred Upton (R., Mich.) passed the House last Friday with 261 votes, including 39 Democrats.

The reaction of the White House was to announce the president’s “absolute” opposition to the bill. So if the Upton legislation actually made it through the Senate, which is unlikely given Senator Reid’s opposition, the president would veto an amendment that would make the changes that he has made unilaterally without the legal or constitutional authority to do so.

At his news conference the president said that any insurer that opted to extend current plans must inform their customers of three things. They are to (1) identify which of the multitude of Obamacare benefit mandates their current plans don’t include, (2) identify which Obamacare exchange will offer them Obamacare coverage, and (3) notify customers of the existence of new Obamacare subsidies that might help them pay for their coverage.

So the president has the power to tell private insurance companies what they have to tell their customers. Who knew? With the stroke of a pen, President Obama can change federal law, tell insurers how to conduct their business, and everyone — federal bureaucrats, private companies, individual citizens, and members of Congress — should follow his mandates, no matter what the Constitution or federal law say. Why? Because he says so, and he is the president.

As Senator Cruz said, it is clear that the Obama administration’s view of federal power “knows virtually no bounds.” What the president apparently does not know either is how expensive, inefficient, and hopelessly bureaucratic the federal government is, or that we have a Constitution that limits the authority of the executive and requires him to enforce the laws passed by Congress.

Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster. Barely 100,000 people have signed up at the same time that millions of Americans are having their affordable policies they like canceled. The president rejects all efforts by Congress to try to fix any of these problems but instead asserts that not only does he know what is best, but that he has virtually unlimited power and authority to do it himself.

His attitude and his hallmark legislation are a sure road to destroying what has been the world’s best health-care system. And his unrestricted and unlimited view of executive power poses a threat to our freedom and liberty and the constitutional system of limited government that we have fought to preserve for more than 200 years.

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