Politics & Media
Feb 13, 2014, 10:23AM

Obama's Out of Bounds

He’s ignoring the Constitution.

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Who needs a Congress? The White House is now in the business of creating and amending legislation on its own.

The Obama administration has singlehandedly changed the terms of the Affordable Care Act, a law it pushed for and was passed by Congress. The original law mandates that it was to take effect after December 2013 but under pressure, the administration has made changes to make it more convenient for businesses to comply. A few examples of the changes: Businesses with between 50 and 100 employees are exempt from compliance until 2016. Businesses with over 100 employees are now required to cover only 70 percent of full-time employees in 2015, with 95 percent from 2016 on, and no requirement for 100 percent coverage at all. Businesses that are not included in the one-year delay for smaller businesses but believe they should must certify under penalty of law that they did not reduce their workforce to qualify for the exemption. The administration has also relaxed rules for some occupations.

What’s next? What other changes will be made? Who will be exempt from what? And when? When the President is done making his changes, will this Act resemble anything close to the original passed by Congress? Actually, none of these questions should matter because the President has no authority to do this in the first place. The Constitution is clear on the job of the three branches of government. In a nutshell, the Legislative branch passes the laws, the Judiciary rules on the constitutionality, and the Executive executes them.

Perhaps it comes down to one man's interpretation of the Constitution. Two presidents, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, had very different views on executive authority. For example, Roosevelt believed presidents may do anything not specifically prohibited by the Constitution while Taft believed presidents were authorized to exercise only those powers specifically granted by the Constitution or delegated by Congress under one of its enumerated powers. Though the Constitution is clear on Congress amending laws, there's nothing in the Constitution that specifically prohibits a president from changing a law, therefore it is within his power to do it.

Obama is not the first president to be accused of overstepping his authority and won't be the last. His actions may be with good intentions, but that doesn't make them constitutional. The purpose of the Constitution is to delegate specific powers to the federal government. The 10th Amendment is clear: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The separation of powers and system of checks and balances that exists within our government is designed to prohibit abuse of power and prohibit any one branch from having more power than the others. History has taught us the dangers that come with wielding unchecked power.

—Follow Jessica Clackum on Twitter: @JessicaClackum

  • Nice tea party schtick Jessica. The problem I have with this type of argument is that it is not only wrong, but, by focusing on some bs interpretations of the constitution and ignoring the facts, tea partiers and republicans miss out on actually changing this crappy law. Since the law was written to give the IRS and HHS broad powers over the implementation, this does not rise to the level of constitutionality. In other words, the law specifically allows for these changes to occur so if you have a problem with it, blame the senate and house for allowing it, not the departments for exercising their legal authority.

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  • Tea Party Schtick? Who says I'm a Tea Party supporter? Who says I'm D or R or anything else? My political affiliation or lack of affiliation is irrelevant here. I'm not arguing for or against the ACA, it's done. I'm arguing that you can't just go in and make all these changes to a law without going through proper channels. To my knowledge, the President doesn't have the authority to go in and change the law. It doesn't necessarily have to be THIS law, it could be ANY law. That's the point. I'm not a Constitutional scholar, never claimed to be. On the surface, this looks to be unconstitutional. If it is not, then someone, show me because I am open-minded enough to see other points of view here. But do not...do NOT sit there and label me as one party or another when you know nothing about my politics. Thank you!

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  • And can I just add here...wanting the three branches of government to adhere to the Constitution is not a Tea Party or Republican Party value. All Americans, regardless of political affiliation should want that!

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  • Jessica, 1. I did not call you tea party. I called your ignorant and angry rant a tea party "schtick". I did so not only due to your apparent anger/ignorance but it is the common refrain of FOX and the far right. 2. If you had bothered to read my full comment with your "open-mind", you'd have been well on your way towards understanding why this issue has nothing to do with the constitution. Once again, the law gives broad rights to the IRS and HHS to oversee and time the rollout of this law. 3. As a citizen of this country, I like the fact that the constitution is meant to be challenged and amended over time. Your suggestion of blind adherence to an antiquated document being the desire of all Americans is narrow-minded. In fact, I'd argue for more checks and balances and fewer restrictions in this country but that is another conversation.

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  • As soon as you threw in tea party schtick I did get ticked because I'm tired of hearing that. I hate the labels. So if I misread you, I retract. That said, I don't mind the Constitution being challenged and amended over time if need be and if done properly but we're not talking about the amending of the Constitution here, we're talking about the amending of a law by the executive branch of government who, in my own opinion has no authority to do so. I'm just hesitant to let any President just do this. To say "oh it's inconvenient for you to meet the requirements of this law, so we're going to extend the deadline" is not enough, in my opinion. First this, what's next? Granted, the ACA is long and tedious and convoluted...and not easy to understand by the average person. I would like to see how broad their powers are in changing this law. If you've read this, please point it out. Or are there no specifics, rather it's just implied? I'll concede that one of the problems with this law is that they're finding out after the fact that black and white doesn't work. There's a lot of gray area and one has to wonder if this couldn't have been foreseen before they put it into action. Had they taken more time with this, had they thought it out, could they have worked it out better (remember this line by who was it--Pelosi? We have to pass the bill to see what's in it.".) Apparently now that it is passed--one of the most significant laws in the history of my lifetime---it has become a complete mess. But that's for another day :)

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