We've all been subject to much back and forth about how government will be funded after Monday. Accordingly I'd like to offer a few thoughts, though as I write resolution is uncertain.
One, we've lost the forest for the trees. At the end of the day, I think the issue is much greater than whether one likes or dislikes Obamacare, or even the appropriateness of using the current legislative tools employed to have an effect.
There is a constitutional issue at play that really hasn't been discussed, but one that I think provides legitimacy to the Republican House's attempts to delay the implementation of this new law. Quite simply, the selective implementation of that law warrants its delay.
Our Founding Fathers were very deliberate in breaking up authority and power, and accordingly, gave to each branch of government different duties and responsibilities. Congress creates, the judiciary interprets, and the executive branch administers the law. Based on that separation of powers, when a law is passed there is no executive authority to revise the law by picking and choosing which parts will be enforced. At the core, that's what has happened with Obamacare.
Can you imagine if George Bush or Bill Clinton had decided they only wanted to enforce tax cuts or increases on a selective basis?
In this case, the president has decided to waive the implementation of the employer-mandate while leaving the mandate in place for individuals. This is not a small technical part of a law, but rather essential to the very working of the overall program.
More than 1,200 businesses had been granted these waivers before delay of the entire employer mandate. Members of Congress and their staffs got the same and in total, there have been seven different areas of the law that the president elected to delay.
If the president had pressed for legislative adjustments to the law to cover these things it would have been different — but that wasn't the case, and therefore we plow new constitutional ground.
Two, a very significant part of the glue that has held our society together for over 200 years has been the belief that our system was fair or equitable. If we lose that, we're playing with real fire in the composition of how our society is held together. Most folks I've talked to have been troubled by the idea of big businesses or those in politics being treated differently based on their ties to power.
Three, this bill costs a lot and that number is trending upward. Wouldn't a pause be reasonable to see the degree to which young people do or don't enroll given its cost implications for the bill? Government programs have a way of costing much more than advertised and we are approaching a real tipping point in our ability to afford existing government promises, let alone new ones.
Four, there also seem to be real questions of unintended consequences with this bill. This is the case as highlighted by union leaders' concerns as businesses move to go under 30 hours of employment. It is also the case as institutions as disparate as the University of Virginia and UPS have announced that they are dropping spousal and dependent coverage from their health care plans based on the costs of this law. Changes like these put us a long way from what the president promised: choice in healthcare coverage and the ability to keep one's current plan.
There have been 17 government shutdowns over the last 36 years. Many occurred when Democrats controlled House, Senate and presidency — all occurred over policy differences. They are the bluntest of leverage points in politics, and in every instance were used to try to advance the will of what legislative participants thought was the will of the majority of those who sent them.
When Harry Reid and the president have both said that they will not negotiate, defeat in the long run is near certain for the House, but that idea of using every tool to advance the voice of the majority of those who sent you is, to me, a fairly American and democratic concept. We will all see what comes next.
Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican, represents South Carolina's First Congressional District.
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