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Obama Skips Past Congress Again With Health Mandate Delay

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
A constitutional law professor at George Washington University said that Obama “has been far more aggressive in circumventing Congress and far more successful in creating an imperial presidency” than Bush.

President Barack Obama’s latest legal end run around Congress — delaying enforcement of the employer health mandate — has sparked more questions about whether he’s abusing his executive discretion under the Constitution.

The move announced late Tuesday was the latest in a string of decisions where the president, facing a divided Congress unable to get much done beyond keeping the government running, has taken matters into his own hands.

Where a previous president might have asked for a legislative fix if a mandate was proving too onerous for business, the Obama administration put out a couple of blog posts saying that, in listening to the business community, it decided not to enforce a key part of the 3-year-old health law for another year.

The administration notes that parts of laws are delayed in implementation all the time — including various pieces of the tax code.

A Treasury official said the administration has “longstanding administrative authority to grant transition relief when implementing new legislation like the ACA.”

But three House committees are already looking into the decision, with Republicans complaining about a disturbing trend where the president decides which laws to enforce and which to ignore.

Darrell Issa of California, the chairman of Oversight and Government Reform, called the decision “another in a string of extra legal actions” taken by Obama.

“As a former constitutional law teacher, President Obama must know that this action gets into very questionable constitutional territory,” Issa said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “It also paves the way for future administrations to simply not enforce parts of Obamacare they don’t believe are functioning well.”

Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas announced a hearing July 10 focusing on the administration’s authority to delay enforcement.

And Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, the chairman of an Education and the Workforce subcommittee, asked the Congressional Research Service to investigate.

“I believe this administration has made a habit of bypassing Congress and it sets a very dangerous precedent,” Roe said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “Both Republicans and Democrats should be very concerned, and I will continue to closely monitor these actions and hold the president accountable.”

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said, “If President Obama wants to make changes to Obamacare, he must come to Congress. ... We are a nation governed by laws written by Congress, not memos and blog posts written by bureaucrats.”

In March, Issa complained in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the Obama administration was interpreting the health care law to provide tax credits in health exchanges even if states refused to set them up — contrary to the law’s text.

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