Congress, Not The President, Can Delay Obamacare’s Individual Mandate

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It appears as though President Barack Obama has decided to delay the individual mandate for Obamacare enrollment by up to six weeks.

But that’s a violation of the Affordable Care Act.

As The Washington Times noted Wednesday, the President is the enforcer of the law that Congressional Democrats passed — not the editor:

Even if Obama wanted to extend the open enrollment period, he wouldn’t be allowed to without an act of Congress — at least if he wants to follow the law he signed.

Though the health care law granted the Secretary of Health and Human Services discretion to define dates for the open enrollment period to occur each year, it also specified that the initial enrollment period (i.e. the current one) had to be announced by July 1, 2012.

Specifically, Section 1311 of the healthcare law reads, “ENROLLMENT PERIODS: The Secretary shall require an Exchange to provide for– (A) an initial open enrollment, as determined by the Secretary (such determination to be made not later than July 1, 2012).”

Given that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has already determined that the enrollment period must end on March 31 — and nearly 16 months has passed since she made that determination — extending the period would require an act of Congress to change the law.

Of course, the rule of law hasn’t stopped the Obama Administration from cherry-picking which parts of Obamacare to roll out — and which parts to exclude for groups the Chicago Tribune calls “special pleaders” — before now. In July, the Administration let big businesses off the hook for one year. Then in September, the President promised small businesses and Spanish speakers a one-year reprieve. Labor unions — Obama’s most ardent cheerleaders in 2008 and 2012 — continue to pressure the President to grant them exemptions, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) remains convinced that will eventually happen.

For any delay to be lawful, it must be amended by Congress in the law itself or abrogated altogether by repeal or replacement. Congress is taking baby steps in the direction of amending the law to allow for an individual delay, with Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) drawing up competing bills that would waive the individual mandate.

Democrats are at least smart enough to disembark a sinking ship, momentarily at least, during an election cycle. CNN’s Dana Bash tweeted Wednesday that every Senate Democrat who’s running for re-election in 2014 will also support a one-year delay — even though their support would likely come in the form of pressuring Obama to circumvent the law, once again, by simply announcing the delay without any action on the part of Congress.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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