‘Under the Old Law …’

Rule of Law by from The Weekly Standard, November 15, 2013

Remember back (a few short weeks ago) when the Democrats were arguing that Obamacare was the law of the land, that it hadn’t been struck down by the Supreme Court (as if avoiding that ignominious fate by a razor-slim 5-4 vote were a selling point), and that Republicans—and the American people—just needed to get over it and accept Obamacare as settled law forevermore?  Well, it now appears what they meant was that, while the American people are powerless to change (or repeal) the law that the Democrats passed, the Democratic president can do so at his whim. Apparently, the federal lawmaking authority has now moved to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

At least that seems to be the Obama administration’s conception of things, not only in action but in thought, as a telling slip by an Obama administration official demonstrates. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff quotes an unnamed White House official as having explained to her the following: “Under the old law, if I had bought a plan starting June 1, 2013, then the insurance company would have to no longer offer that plan. … Now, that can go for another year.”

So, there was “the old law”—which banned insurers from offering (most) existing plans after 2013.  And now there’s apparently the new law—which postpones that ban for a year.

By “the old law,” the White House official clearly didn’t mean the law at the time of Obamacare’s passage, because pre-Obamacare law didn’t tell insurers that they would have “to no longer offer” 2013 plans in 2014.  Rather, that’s what Obamacare requires—or, more exactly, what “old” (written, congressionally passed) Obamacare requires. New Obamacare—which wasn’t passed by Congress but was simply decreed from the White House—now temporarily revokes that mandate (albeit only as it pertains to those who were already enrolled in such plans). Most likely, new Obamacare will prove to be about as popular as new Coke.  But that doesn’t change the fact that new Obamacare appears to be a lawless concoction.

Progressives have long advocated the notion of a “living Constitution” in lieu of the fixed ruled of law—which means that those in power (whether judges or presidents) get to call the shots and to change (or, more exactly, to ignore) the law as they wish. This latest episode, therefore, is nothing new; it’s merely one of the plainest manifestations of progressives’ longstanding hostility to being bound by the laws they’re so eager to pass and impose upon others.

This latest development offers a stark reminder, however, that Obamacare isn’t only an historic assault on Americans’ liberty, but also on the very notion of government of, by, and for the people. Seven and a half score years and four days removed from Lincoln’s eulogy at Gettysburg, we would therefore do well, as Lincoln implored us, “to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”

© 2013 by The Weekly Standard. Reprinted with permission.