Garth Kant is WND Washington news editor. Previously, he spent five years writing, copy-editing and producing at "CNN Headline News," three years writing, copy-editing and training writers at MSNBC, and also served several local TV newsrooms as producer, executive producer and assistant news director. He is the author of the McGraw-Hill textbook, "How to Write Television News."More ↓Less ↑
WASHINGTON – It was as if everyone finally noticed the emperor had no clothes.
It began July 3, the day after the administration decided to delay enforcing the Obamacare employer mandate for a year, when Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, pointed out the move was strictly illegal.
“He has no constitutional authority to simply waive the law … only Congress can do so,” King said.
A few days passed quietly. Then suddenly, many seemed to notice the significance of what King had said.
On July 8, Michael McConnell, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Obama Suspends the Law.”
“The administration has yet to offer a legal justification for last week’s suspension of the employer mandate,” and “the president’s unilateral suspension of statutes may have the most disturbing long-term effects,” he wrote.
On July 10, Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” and called the president’s move unconstitutional.
“The Constitution says the executive has to faithfully execute the laws and here it is faithfully ignoring a law it doesn’t like in the same way it wantonly passed the DREAM Act unilaterally — an act that the Congress had rejected. It is absolutely lawless in the things it does.” he said.
On July 11, Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., introduced a resolution accusing Obama of violating the Constitution by postponing the employer mandate.
On July 13, National Review columnist and former Justice Department attorney Andrew McCarthy penned an article tiled “Obama’s Rule by Decree.”
Referring to the postponement of the employer mandate, McCarthy wrote, “For this president, laws are not binding expressions of the popular will, but trifling recommendations to be ignored when expedient.”
“The executive order — formerly an intra-branch efficiency device designed to organize the exercise of the president’s constitutional powers and the enforcement of Congress’ laws — has effectively become legislation, the president substituting his edicts for our laws,” adding, “That is not the rule of law. It is how a dictatorship works.”
And on July 14, GOP leaders announced the House will vote to delay the individual mandate of the health care law, reasoning it is unfair to delay only the employer mandate.
“The White House may believe it can unilaterally delay implementation of Obamacare’s employer mandate, but only Congress can change the law,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., sponsor of one of two bills.
The employee mandate requires businesses with fewer than 50 workers to provide insurance or pay penalties, beginning in 2014. Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said the administration delayed implementation to create a “smarter system.” Critics say Obama postponed the unpopular and costly provision so it wouldn’t affect the 2014 elections.
To dig deeper into the issue, WND spoke with the lawmaker who lit the fuse on the controversy. King said this isn’t the first time this president has acted unconstitutionally.
Violated his own oath
“The president has no constitutional authority to amend any law that’s been passed by the United States Congress. I’ve made the argument time and again, and he’s violated his own oath of office time and again,” King said.
“It says in Article II, Section III, ‘The President shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’ Now, that term executed means ‘enforce the law,’ it doesn’t mean ‘execute the law,’ it doesn’t mean give the law the death penalty.”
But, King said that’s exactly what the president has done with laws he doesn’t like, including No Child Left Behind, Welfare to Work and immigration law, when he created “the DREAM Act-light.”
King was referring to the president’s decision to act unilaterally when he couldn’t get the DREAM Act passed. Obama had Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issue a directive in 2012 prohibiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents from deporting illegal aliens under 30 who were younger than 16 when they entered the county, had lived here for five years, had no felonies and had graduated or were in high school or the military.
“Now, all of that was bad, and we initiated a lawsuit against the president on the immigration piece,” he said. “That litigation is Crane vs. Napolitano. The lead plaintiff is the president of the ICE union, Chris Crane, who’s been stellar on this matter. It’s moving its way through the federal court system.”
King said federal judge Reed O’Connor in the northern district of Texas has come down on Crane’s side in nine out of 10 arguments they’ve made.
“I’m trying to convince my colleagues that our obligation when we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States is to stand up and oppose the unconstitutional violations of the president.”
President knows it’s illegal
King described how, before he unilaterally imposed the DREAM Act by edict, even Obama himself acknowledged that to do so would be illegal.
“The president said, here in this city, March 28, 2011, when he was giving a speech to a high school, he said, ‘I know you want me to pass the DREAM Act by executive order. I don’t have the authority to do that. You’ve been studying the Constitution. You’re smart students. You know it’s the legislature in Congress that passes the laws. I’m the executive branch; I enforce them and it’s the judicial branch’s job to interpret them,’” said King, recalling the words of Obama.
King said that was a pretty good reading of the law, for “a former adjunct constitutional law professor from the University of Chicago, sometime later to become a community organizer.”
But he said that all changed: “On June 15, 2012 the president stepped into the Rose Garden and said, ‘We aren’t going to enforce these laws against these people because I disagree with them.’”
“That’s what started the lawsuit,” King explained. “Whether you agree with these policies or not, when the president has applied his contempt for his own oath of office to policies that he disagreed with, he’s gone a step so unconstitutional and so utterly obvious that anybody, not just in high school, but in third grade, should figure this out.”
The congressman said the same is true about the decision to delay implementation of the employer mandate in Obamacare.
“The president cannot suspend the application and the enforcement and the implementation of that law, unless and until he were to come to Congress and get our assent,” King insisted, adding, “What he’s done instead is he’s legislated by press conference. He’s legislated by executive edict, and now he’s legislating by a memo that’s posted on the website of the second-in-command of the U.S. Treasury.”
King was incensed.
“This is appalling,” he said. “This is one of the reasons this country separated from King George. And now, it seems we have leaders in Congress who don’t want to address the constitutional problem that’s created by this.”
King said congressional leaders would rather tinker around the edges where they see the chance for political gain, citing the move to suspend the individual mandate.
‘There’s no reason for a Congress‘
“That’s not good enough. This has to be about the Constitution,” King declared. “If we’re going to let the president pick and choose and decide which laws he’s going to enforce, then there’s no reason for a Congress. And then our republic starts to crack and crumble. Its constitutional underpinnings are under threat with the imperial presidency of Barack Obama.”
WND asked King for his thoughts on Obama’s decision to lift the employer mandate but not the individual mandate.
“He’s granted waiver after waiver,” he replied. “The people who have political power got waivers. A lot of the unions got waivers from Obamacare, and so did some of the larger companies that were able to make their case to the White House.”
But King said there’s no reason why employers should have a higher standing than employees.
“We don’t have many tools to make the president enforce the law,” he said. “Congress has the ability to appropriate (funds). So, we could, through the appropriations process, have a government shutdown that Harry Reid or the president would bring about.”
King mused Congress could shut off money to the White House the same way the administration cut off White House tours after the sequestration.
Obama trying to ‘punish the American people’
The congressman said Obama is “doing political things to try to punish the American people because he doesn’t like his (own) idea of sequestration.”
“So, I guess we should do something that affects him. (Rep.) Louie Gohmert introduced a resolution that puts some conditions on it and says there will be no Secret Service detail and no money spent to guard the president while he’s golfing. That sends a political message. It may not be the most practical.”
But, he said, it might be a message that would be heard.