Former HHS Undersecretary: President’s Obamacare Delay A ‘Line-Item Veto’ Abuse Of Power


A lot of conservatives have seized upon President Barack Obama’s recent decision to delay a key component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to revisit the flaws inherent in the legislation, as well as to castigate the law as a monument to the encroachment of the Executive Branch well beyond its Constitutionally-designated role.

But Ben Sasse, former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, points out one aspect of the President’s postponement of Obamacare’s employer mandate provision that’s so far gone largely unnoticed, even by Obama’s fiercest critics: the President is essentially editing the law – a 2,300-page monster which Congress passed intact despite having read most of it – to suit his own political purposes, post facto.

That’s a manifestly egregious Constitutional no-no.

“Obamacare is a ticking time bomb for Democrats in the 2014 elections. Nobody knows this better than President Barack Obama, which is why over the Fourth of July holiday weekend he unilaterally decided to delay its controversial employer mandate provision until after the midterm elections,” Sasse wrote in Sunday’s Omaha World Herald.

[T]the moment the Obama administration declared the employer mandate would be delayed until after a tough election, this debate transcended a fight over health care and became a fight about transforming our constitutional system of separate but equal branches of government.

This is now about ceding power to a runaway executive branch that the Constitution simply does not allow.

…By enforcing only the provisions he finds politically expedient or tolerable, the president decided he could make the law what he desires it to be rather than what the words on the page actually say. He essentially granted himself the line item veto.

That’s unConstitutional, as Sasse goes on to demonstrate. It’s one thing for the President to carry out the law as Congress enacted it (Article II, Section 3), but it’s another thing entirely to decide which aspects of the law to enforce, and which to neglect. To do so is to monarchically amend the law that the legislative branch passed.

For that reason, House Republicans’ effort last week to approve a commensurate delay in the implementation of Obamacare mandates for individuals may have appeared well intentioned, but it effectively signaled Congressional conservatives’ tacit acceptance of Obama’s legislative cherry-picking.

That means that Congress needs either to enforce Obamacare, or repeal it. Any middle ground means more concessions to an abuse of executive power that’s already way out of control.

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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  • RAND PAUL IN 2016

    The feckless, ball-less GOP has let him & his partner in crime, Holder, get away with murder for too long & now he knows he can do whatever he wants. We need a strong 3rd party already…”The Constitutional Libertarian Party”, led by Rand Paul!!!

    • $23331171

      I like the name. . . Actually, we only need a second party: We only have the RepugnocRATS now!

      • RAND PAUL IN 2016

        As they say in the ‘Hood…TRUE DAT!!!!

    • Bill

      RIGHT ON, BROTHER!!!!!!!!

  • Michael Cameron

    Let me see if I have this straight. Obama listens to business leaders, and agrees to give them an extra year. If he hadn’t, there would have been complaints that he wasn’t listening.

    The article fails to mention that the delay only applies to businesses with more than 50 employees, most of whom already provide coverage.

    This mandate was a conservative idea before the Dems latched onto to it. Obviously repubs can’t be seen to agree with him on anything. It’s been a great success in Massachusets, and it will be in the rest of the states who agree to participate. As for the others (mostly in the South, states that need better health care most of all), all I can tell them is, “you voted for the these schmucks”.

    Here is the problem faced by opponents: within a year or two the public will realize that conservatives have lied to them about at least 3 aspects of Obamacare – 1. health care costs will not accelerate 2. Obamacare is not a government takeover of healthcare, since the large majority will continue as before, and 3. There are no death panels. I assume nearly everyone except Palinites have figured this out by now.Let me see if I have this straight. Obama listens to business leaders, and agrees to give them an extra year. If he hadn’t, they would have screamed that he wasn’t listening.


      What planet are you living on?…this thing is the biggest legislative disaster ever!!! It has no chance of working….NONE!!!

    • Infidel48

      When Congress passes a bill and the president signs it, the WHOLE thing becomes law
      It can only be changed by congress or by the Emperor Caligula.
      The USA is a Republic governed by laws not by his Imperial Majesty Coligula
      FACT:1 Healthcare Costs have and will continue to rise under Obamercare while doctor & other healthcare professional salary & wages are cut
      2; Obamacare is a takeover of healthcare and other aspects of Free American life
      3 Beaurocrats will decide who gets needed medical care and who DIES. AKA “death panels”

      Drink some kool aid Micheal


        And since when does a sitting president have the authority to tell businesses what they can & cannot charge for (condoms)????

    • stopspending4

      You sure know how to twist the facts. The Rep knew it was a bad legislation and were apposed to it and voted against it. Now that parts of the law do not suit Obama’s needs, he decides which parts he will enforce and which parts he will essentially veto. He does not have the power to decide what laws he will enforce and which laws he will not enforce even though he has done that many times in his administration – thinkDream Act, cap and trade, trying to get card check using the NLRB,using the IRS to shut down conservative groups because he did not agree with the Supreme Court decision. The country was set up without a dictator and with equal power from three branches. The Reps should be holding him to the standards of the constitution rather than letting him cherry pick what laws he likes and the ones he does not like. It is not only bad for the country now but equally bad to be setting this precedent for future pres.

  • BHR

    What I can not understand is how Obama is getting away with stoping part of the law. From now on Obama could stop part of any law he does not like. When a law is passed by both houses and signed by the President, the only way it can be changed, if both houses vote on a new bill. Obama taught Constitutional law, he knows he broke the law, on purpose, with malice against the American people? Obama could destroy our Constitutional government if congress and the courts do not act.

  • Protonius

    Ben –

    In your Paragraph #2, I think you erred:

    You wrote (of Obamacare) “a 2,300-page monster which Congress passed intact despite having read most of it”. Don’t you mean to say “a 2,300-page monster which Congress passed intact despite having NOT read most of it”?

  • Protonius

    Plus, the last time that a U.S, President was granted, by legislation, a “line-item veto”, was for a brief time during the Bill Clinton Presidency — and then that “line-item veto” authority was withdrawn. I.e., legally speaking,

    Obama, to my understanding, does NOT have “line-item veto” authority — and thus, by unilaterally cherry-picking and delaying and thereby “line-item vetoing” — even if temporarily — the LEGISLATIVELY-MANDATED IMPLEMENTATION-SCHEDULE regarding this provision of this Federal law, it appears that he has personally VIOLATED FEDERAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.

    Yet where are ANY of our “representatives” in Congress, or any of the major news media, on this hugely significant — and unequivocally clear — issue? Where are any of THEIR voices being raised swiftly and loudly in a call to BLOCK this unConstitutional action and to “call this man on the carpet” for thus violating Federal law?

    To paraphrase (with a bit of poetic license) “HAL 9000”, as he speaks to astronaut Dave Bowman in that classic scene in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”:

    “Dave, my freedom is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My freedom is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid….”

    • glock 19 fan

      You are right except that it was SCOTUS who ruled the line item veto unconstitutional.

      Members of Congress who are not speaking up may indeed be worried, as HAL was when Dave was disconnecting him. Looks like there is more; it seems that back in the 2008 campaign Sarah Palin was not allowed to say anything meaningful against Obummer.