Obamacare in the Twilight Zone

As we have noted here several times, the administration has announced what amounts to a one-year delay in the enforcement of the Obamacare employer mandate. The announcement came in an unusual package for such things. It was wrapped in a cotton-candy blog post by Treasury Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur. The post cited no legal authority and delivered something like a royal edict with respect to a law that by its terms goes into effect in January 2014.

There’s a joke here somewhere. Maybe it’s the media’s studied avoidance of the dubious legality of the maneuver. Maybe it’s the delegation of the task to an assistant secretary. Maybe it’s the timing of the announcement, anticipating the celebration of our revolt against King George III.

Yesterday Republicans in the House of Representatives served up a bill that would in effect authorize the Obama administration’s delay. (It also served up a separate bill giving the individual mandate equal treatment. Michael Cannon discusses the votes on the two bills here and the Wall Street Journal devotes an editorial to them here.) Thirty-five Democrats supported the bill delaying the employer mandate, which passed 264-161.

Nevertheless, the Democratic Party line requires opposition to the bill. Jeffrey Anderson notes that in a statement released shortly before the House vote, the administration called the vote to provide legislative authority for the employer-mandate delay “unnecessary.” Anderson suggests the political twilight zone into which the Obama administration has delivered us:

It is not often that a president announces his decision not to enforce a law as written, the House of Representatives responds by offering to restore the rule of law by amending that law to permit the delay the president wishes .  .  . and then the president threatens to veto that legislation if it gets to his desk. But such is the pathbreaking and jaw-dropping spectacle of Obamacare.

Why would the administration oppose a bill that legalizes action it has already announced? Anderson offers no speculation on this point, and maybe the reasons are obvious. What are they? I can think of a few. Here goes:

1. The administration is embarrassed and ashamed of the unworkability of the law as passed.

2. The administration is pleased to claim the royal prerogative regarding the execution of the laws. The Constitution of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding, it prefers the discretion to assure that the laws not be faithfully executed.

3. The administration does not want to concede that Republicans have a point, any point.

4. Like Melville’s Bartleby, the administration would “prefer not to.”

I could go on, but my imagination is limited and I fear that my cynicism does not run deep enough truly to understand what is happening here.


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