Obamacare was back in federal court facing serious challenges this week, the administration rewrote the law again, and the March 31 deadline for signing up turns out to be as firm as President Barack Obama’s infamous red lines.
Making the biggest headlines was the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on challenges by two privately owned corporations to the Obamacare mandate that they provide insurance coverage for a few contraceptives they consider to be abortifacients that violate their Christian principles.
The administration’s stunted view is that religious liberty essentially applies to houses of worship and a few related entities and that no one in business has such a right. With the questioning of the justices mostly split along liberal and conservative lines, Chief Justice John Roberts offered a potential compromise. He said religious liberty may be the right of corporations closely held by a few individuals like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities, the family-owned firms that brought the case. Such a ruling would not apply publicly owned and traded firms.
The founders enshrined the right of conscience in the First Amendment. Obamacare demonstrates how ever-bigger government invariably intrudes into matters of personal liberty and individual rights.
Perhaps the more serious court confrontation was the one that got less publicity. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard a case that could gut subsidies critical to enrolling low-income in the insurance program.
The Affordable Care Act states that subsidies are authorized “through an exchange established by the state.” The law, a partisan Democratic Party-written measure passed without a single Republican vote, ran into a wall of opposition in many states. Only 16 states and the District of Columbia set up exchanges.
The federal government had to set up exchanges in 34 states. Supporters of the law argue that the state-exchanges-only subsidy language was a “drafting error,” that the intent was for subsidies to be available on all exchanges. The legislative record is less than clear on that, while the plain language of the law is clear. Noted one of the jurists on the three-judge panel: “If the legislation is just stupid, I don’t see that it’s up to the court to save it.” This is a case headed for the Supreme Court.
A sloppy law is the almost inevitable consequence of legislation crafted by one party with no input from the opposition.
It’s why the administration has changed and amended Obamacare by executive fiat to try to make it work. Some of those changes, such a delaying the employer mandate, were in bills passed by the Republican House but never taken up by the Democrat-led Senate and even threatened with a presidential veto.
Only a couple of weeks ago, officials said the March 31 deadline for signing up for insurance was firm, that the administration had no statutory authority to change it. But on Wednesday it morphed into another Obama nebulous red line as the administration announced “special enrollment periods,” some up to 60 days, to give more time for enrolling.
The Politico web site lists 10 times the administration has made “prominent” delays in Obamacare. They are among 38 regulatory changes to the law counted by the Wall Street Journal.
Intrusions into the right of conscience. Wholesale administrative revision of a law, a job the Constitution designates to the Congress. A Democratic majority in the Senate supine to such a broad power grab by the White House. Our country and our democratic republic will pay a price for Obamacare for many years.