Editor’s note: Lo and behold, all these years later, Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution of the United States has been reviewed again, and this time read in a new light. Who knew that so many unwritten words could be found there? Perhaps not even the Founders, who wrote Section 7, which is the one specifying what presidents can do when presented with the laws passed by Congress. Here is the new-and-improved, just-rediscovered, revised-and-redesigned text. And it’s quite a piece of work: SECTION 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills. Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House . . . .
Or if, after passage, he shall discover some part(s)of it that he does not much care for, or just finds inconvenient, he may delay, reword, or otherwise change such passage(s), taking care that he refer to said process only as a delay, interpretation, “smoothing out this transition,” or some equally glib euphemism.
Yes, all that sounds reasonable. Antiquated laws need to be updated, and the Affordable Care Act was passed way back in 2010, which might as well be the Dark Ages by this president’s sense of history. Yes, who knew all the problems it would face by 2014? Except maybe the usual quirky critics who are always trying to hold up Progress, aka Republicans.
But a president has to have some needed elasticity, or in the popular parlance, Wiggle Room, when it comes to laws passed by Congress. Even if those laws were passed at his own strenuous urging and have been billed as his Signature Achievement, however hard he’s trying to disguise his handwriting on it.
TO CONTINUE unrolling this document just discovered in a cranny of the White House next to the billing records of Hillary Clinton, Esq.:
If after such Reconsideration two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.
And take effect until the president feels it has become inconvenient or otherwise superseded by circumstances, political necessity, or the influence of the most powerful business interest of the moment. Then the president shall duly make any changes to the law that Congress has passed-but only if those changes are called waivers, hardship exceptions, phase-ins, or administrative adjustments, including but not limited to any and/or all of the above.
But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.
If anyone should be so unruly as to point out that the president is selectively enforcing the law, and should they demand the president grant individuals, aka Only Citizens, the same exemptions to his law that he grants businesses, states, labor unions or other such favored beneficiaries of his grace from time to regular time, the president shall say with due sobriety, a perfectly straight face and doleful countenance in general, that such suggestions would not be in line with the intent of the law as it has just been revealed to him by a higher power, to wit, himself.
If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it . . . .
But all such provisions shall be duly nullified if corporations, chambers of commerce, the Democratic Party, or other such financial and/or cultural institutions or their representatives, herein to be called lobbyists, start calling the White House at all hours and generally making pests of themselves. Also, if there is an election scheduled within the calendar year, let the president pick and choose who should have to comply with the laws passed by Congress and signed by himself, his word being good as his broken bond.
NO MATTER your opinion of Obamacare, the employer mandate, the individual mandate . . . . no matter if you work at a business that has 50 to 99 employees, or 100 or more, or push a lawnmower by yourself . . . no matter if you have had health insurance for years but have had your insurance canceled because of Obamacare, or are just now getting a policy on the new and still clunky exchanges, or have decided to quit your job now that health insurance is free, at least to you, as an American you are supposed to sleep better o’ night because this is a nation of laws. And the principal official in charge of enforcing those laws of the United States is the president of the United States. To which, watching this president in repeated action, an observer might respond with that well-known legal maxim: Don’t count on it, bub.
What the president isn’t supposed to do, theoretically, is enforce the laws for some, and look the other way when his friends, supporters or just rich folks with clout (a Chicagoism for what’s being exercised in this case) would like to ignore the law. Then they get two years to comply, extension always possible, while you, sucker, had better watch your step.
At the risk of being a stickler for a minor matter like the mere law, here’s a modest proposal: Why not just give the president’s version of the above, new-and-improved Section 7 what used to be called in the military the ol’ Section 8-and boot it out for the good of the service?
Obamacare may be this president’s baby, his legacy, his Signature Achievement. But that doesn’t mean it means whatever he says it does at any given time. At least we hope the letter-and spirit-of the law hasn’t yet been reduced to The Hon. Barack Obama’s writ or whim or political tactic of the moment.
L’etat, c’est moi, said a French monarch whose dynasty was riding for a fall. The law, it is whatever I say it is, doesn’t sound like any better a theory.