None of this was in the original Affordable Care Act. But recognizing that employers were about to begin slashing employee hours to avoid having to pay for insurance, the Obama administration moved to mitigate the political impact in anticipation of the 2014 elections.
It’s no shock to see commentators like Charles Krauthammer condemning the president’s usurpation of constitutional authority; Krauthammer rightly called Obama’s actions “stuff you do in a banana republic.” It’s no surprise when the Wall Street Journal editorial board explains that terming the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” makes sense because “the law increasingly means whatever President Obama says it does on any given day.”
But even Ron Fournier of National Journal has now said he is “getting sick of defending Obamacare,” and added that it is “getting difficult and slinking toward impossible to defend the Affordable Care Act.” The fact that Obama’s quasi-dictatorial actions only put his allies in the “slinking toward impossible” camp rather than the outright opposition only speaks to the depth of Obama worship that still predominates on the intellectually dishonest left.
But it is precisely the left’s intellectual dishonesty that has allowed Obamacare to move forward. Obamacare is easily the most lawless piece of legislation ever foisted on the American people. Manipulated and processed, chopped and reassembled, Obamacare has become a devil’s playground for arbitrary government – and it hasn’t even come into full force and effect.
The lawlessness began with the passage of Obamacare itself, which relied on a combination of bribery and election theft in order to gain the necessary votes. The bill originally included the so-called Cornhusker Kickback – a basic payoff to the state of Nebraska – in order to earn the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). While the Cornhusker Kickback was later repealed in committee, the damage had already been done: with Nelson on the record for the bill, he couldn’t politically backtrack. Similarly, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) originally handed over his Obamacare vote in return for avoiding cuts to Medicare Advantage in Florida, before that provision of the bill was killed in conference – the so-called Gator-Aid payoff. Then there was the Louisiana Purchase, in which Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) effectively sold her Obamacare vote in return for $4.3 billion in Medicaid funds.
Even so, the Democrats didn’t have 60 votes on Obamacare until Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) was cheated out of his seat with endless voting recounts. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) entered the Senate, putting the Democrats at 60 votes – even though the most liberal state in America, Massachusetts, had just elected a Republican to fill Teddy Kennedy’s seat largely on the basis of opposition to Obamacare. Obamacare was quickly passed without anyone reading the final bill – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) infamously said that we had to pass the bill to find out what was in it. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) rammed through a vote on Obamacare just before Christmas 2009 to avoid blowback from the American people when Senators went home for the holidays. Both Pelosi and Reid used myriad procedural conjurings in order to pass the bill. And, of course, the Democrats lied to the public about the costs of the bill in order to avoid further public scrutiny, just as President Obama lied about being able to keep both your health insurance plan and your doctor.
The lawlessness extended to the Supreme Court, where Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued an opinion that ranks alongside Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and Roe v. Wade (1973) in the moral and legal lowlights of American jurisprudence. Justice Roberts somehow turned what was a fine for failure to purchase a health insurance plan – constitutionally impermissible – into a tax, which was constitutionally permissible. That despite the fact that Obamacare was pitched again and again as a non-tax by Democrats in order to pass the bill. Suddenly, the government mandating that you buy something simply because you’re breathing was legitimated under the lie that it constituted a tax.
Once the bill became law, the true lawlessness began. Recognizing the politically unpalatable nature of Obamacare early, even to his allies, President Obama quickly began issuing waivers to friends, particularly union cronies. In July 2013, he delayed the implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate until 2015 – quite illegally, as it turns out. In November 2013, after criticism of the administration arose due to mass cancellations of individual insurance plans, Obama unilaterally declared that insurance companies could keep selling plans that were not permitted under Obamacare. Then, in December 2013, he delayed the individual mandate for some thanks to the botched Obamacare rollout.
The growth of the imperial presidency with regard to Obamacare represents one of the ugliest blemishes on the face of our republic. In fact, it demonstrates that the checks and balances that once protected Americans’ rights have been stripped away by an executive branch hell-bent on power, a judicial branch hell-bent on passing the buck, and a legislative branch hell-bent on re-election via delegation of authority to the executive and the judicial. That spells doom for the concept of rule of law. If no one can be held to the standard of the Constitution, the Constitution is rendered meaningless. And if the Constitution is rendered meaningless, the rule of men replaces the rule of law.
The lawlessness of Obamacare continues unabated. A seven-foot-high stack of law and regulations can be twisted and turned to fit any perspective – or, if you’re President Obama, redlined post-facto in violation of the Constitution. The law itself is lawless; the implementation is lawless; the slicing and dicing is lawless. But the concept of the rule of law no longer applies in the world of big, arbitrary, all-encompassing government.