Washington D. C. — In a move certain to please his conservative supporters and infuriate his critics, President Romney announced this afternoon that his administration would make yet another change to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In a terse release, posted without fanfare to the Department of Health and Human Services website, officials revealed that the law’s employer mandate would be suspended until 2016 for all businesses that employ between 50 and 99 people.
The move comes hot on the heels of news that the agency would not be enforcing the provisions in the law that require Americans to buy approved health insurance until after the next election. Now, as then, a simple explanation was forthcoming. “The president won,” a White House aide told National Review Online. “His disdain for the law was ratified by the people. Now he’s going to fundamentally transform it.”
“This is an utter disgrace,” griped Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). “This law was passed through Congress, signed by the previous president, and upheld by the Supreme Court.”
Schumer’s colleague, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, described the Romney administration’s behavior as “the nuclear option.” “This abuse of executive discretion is beyond the pale,” Reid fumed. “I’m a lawyer, I know.” (For more information on the American system of government please take a look at Ezra Klein’s comprehensive explanatory primer, “Our Constitution in Exile: Why Everything President Romney Does Is Illegal,” over at VoxProg. Alternatively, consult Greg Sargent’s excellent Washington Post column, “Article I: A Love Story,” published January 20, 2013.)
Others went further. “It’s. The. Law,” animated Democratic spokesman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters at a hastily assembled press conference in Miami, barking out each monosyllable and pounding her fist on her desk. “The terrorist, anarchist, hostage-taking neo-Confederates in the Republican party tried for years to delay this in the legislature and now, simply because they have a Senate they dislike, they are trying to do so with the executive branch. It’s a disgrace to the memory of our Founding Persons and it will not stand.”
Wasserman Schultz’s claim of impropriety is a strong one, and it echoes Democratic complaints from last June, when President Romney delayed the changes in the income tax by two years to allow compliance deadlines to be met and to make sure that he was standing up for the middle class. George Washington University law professor and frequent critic of executive power, Jonathan Turley, broke through tears to tell National Review Online that the development was “merely the latest in an endless series of corruptions, and another devastating step on the road to monarchy.” “D’you know what?” Turley added, his voice cracking. “I’m thinking of moving to Cyprus.”
Despite the criticism, Republican strategists remained sanguine. “What you’re seeing here is the Democratic party reaping the whirlwind,” a GOP operative explained on condition of anonymity. “This is the train that the last guy set in motion — and he was cheered on by politicians and journalists alike. Can they really complain now our guy has the reins? I think not.”
Many of the president’s backers concurred. “I reject the premise of the complaint,” the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote in her weekly column. “This is just anti-Mormon bias. They don’t see Mitt like I do.”
An unfortunately timed remark, made by Romney as he left a meeting at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello this morning, is certain to throw fuel on the fire. “That’s the good thing as president,” he was heard to joke, “I can do whatever I want.” At the time of writing, MSNBC was in the 67th day of a special series, “Is Mitt Romney the Most Monarchical President in American History?”
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.