California Democratic congressman Xavier Becerra likened Obamacare’s crumbling prospects to a national emergency while defending Obama’s unilateral changes to the law, declaring that “the president can’t just sit there” in the face of a “do-nothing” Congress.
Becerra spoke with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee about the White House’s exploding use of executive orders to change key components of the health care law, most recently delaying the employer mandate for another year.
The congressman claimed that tax code allows the Treasury Department to make these broad changes in order to better implement the law. Critics, including Lee, argue that the changes are politically-driven and are an unconstitutional denial of Congress’ appropriate legislative role.
“If that kind of broad regulatory mandate, buried somewhere within the Internal Revenue Code, can authorize the president to do what he’s purporting to do here, then there’s almost no limit to his authority,” Lee contended. “And we have a government of one, we have a super executive and super legislator invested in the President of the United States… He’s violating the Constitution.”
Becerra dismissed Lee’s claims of unconstitutionality. “If it were against the Constitution, someone would’ve sued by now and the president would’ve had to stop,” he said. He noted that many presidents have issued executive orders and that the Obamacare rule changes are all about “flexibility.”
Wallace wondered why Becerra is so willing to cede Congress’ authority under Article 1 of the Constitution, which grants Congress all legislative powers. “Forget the politics for a moment, Congressman Becerra,” he said. “I would think as a congressman, you would be upset about the idea of any president… going around Congress to this extent.”
“If you’re going around Congress to rewrite law, that would be different than trying to use the flexibility you’re given by the Congress to execute the law,” he said. “Remember, this is perhaps the greatest ‘do-nothing’ Congress we’ve seen.”
But Wallace wouldn’t let up:
WALLACE: If I may sir, when the healthcare law says it will begin after December 31, 2013, isn’t that pretty specific?
BECERRA: It WILL begin after December 2013.
WALLACE: Yeah but, now it’s 2016!
BECERRA: Well the president said we’ll start it after 2013, but we’re going to make sure it works well for small businesses. And the fact is — what he’s trying to do is make things work. When Congress can’t pass bills, when Congress shuts down the government, the president can’t just sit there! What he’s saying is —
WALLACE: Well, yeah. That’s the way the Constitution’s written. The president’s just supposed to sit there.
BECERRA: No, he — is just supposed to sit there? If we have an emergency the president is just supposed to sit there? If we’re under national security attack —
WALLACE: Well, we’re not talking about an emergency with Obamacare.
BECERRA: But you never know if something might happen, if we just sort of —
WALLACE: We’re not talking about a foreign threat here, sir.
BECERRA: I would hope that we would never have a chief executive who would twiddle his thumbs because Congress can’t get its act together. We need to move! We need to move.
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