|Note that there is no right to refuse to enforce laws one doesn't like in the enumerated powers of the executive branch.|
President Trump has announced that he may not enforce the individual mandate required under Obamacare. If he goes through with this it will effectively kill the program, which was already dying a not-so-slow death.
I hate Obamacare and look forward to its demise, but Trump is wrong to simply stop enforcing the individual mandate for one reason: it’s the law. It’s the sworn duty of the president under Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It’s really that simple. There is no provision allowing a president to refuse to enforce laws because Congress refused to "cooperate" with him in changing them.
Of course, that view changed under the Obama presidency. When Congress refused to pass laws he wanted, he simply ruled by edict and his disciples were fine with it. Thus when Congress refused to grant amnesty or citizenship to millions of criminals in this country illegally, Obama simply quit enforcing our immigration laws. When Obamacare didn’t work exactly as he wanted, he unilaterally transferred money outside of the authority of law. Facing election pressures, Obama delayed various unpopular aspects of the law purely for electoral advantage. For the past eight years Obama has essentially operated as a dictator, and he got away with it because too many people were afraid to challenge our first black president for fear of being called “racist.”
Now Trump is in office; the Obamaites who were so willing to go along with this massive usurpation of power into the executive branch are now going to discover that sauce for Obama’s goose is sauce for Trump’s gander. He can and will rescind most of Obama’s executive orders; in addition, Trump seems ready to follow Obama’s example of refusing to enforce those laws with which he disagrees. I expect to hear a lot of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth by idiots wearing hats made to look like vaginas.
I suppose Trump is entitled to demand the same rights as those exercised by Obama, but at some point Congress and the states need to use the courts to rein in our out-of-control executive branch. In the meantime Trump will use all of the tools of executive power that Obama created for him. Most of what he may do I will probably approve of, but there is value in obedience to the law and the Constitution.
In our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush (and H.W. Bush as well) sought authorization from Congress before committing U.S. troops to action. Obama chose to ignore the War Powers Act in his unjustified attack on our enemy-turned-ally, Libya, committing numerous war crimes in the process. The results have been disastrous (as I said they would be back in 2011), including the rise of ISIS and the Syrian civil war. Congress should have impeached him over this, but they lacked the will. It’s time to give the War Powers Act additional teeth by imposing criminal penalties on soldiers who knowingly violate it by participating in an offensive military action for more than 60 days without Congressional approval. Soldiers are expected to disobey orders given by commanders that violate the Geneva Convention or that are illegal, and they should be expected to disobey orders given in violation of the War Powers Act. Any soldier who can’t count to 60 has no business of being in the military.
In 1974, in Train v. City of New York, the Supreme Court ruled that President Nixon could not “impound” funds appropriated by Congress; in other words, if the law said spend the money he had to spend the money. There can be no tolerance for the executive branch to simply refuse to enforce laws that the current president doesn’t like. I’m not prepared to advocate for the impeachment of Trump for engaging in behavior that is identical to that of Obama, but at some point Congress is going to have to involve the courts in restraining our nation’s out-of-control executive branch.
I support Donald Trump and almost everything he says he wants to do as president, but as a matter of long-term policy Congress and the states must claw back their powers from the executive. The president’s job is to direct foreign policy, command the military, commission officers and judges subject to Senate approval, propose laws to Congress, and faithfully enforce those laws enacted by Congress. That’s it. The right to make laws and appropriate funds rests solely with the Congress, subject to a presidential right to make proposals and attempt to veto. The president is not supposed to rule by edict or unilaterally refuse to enforce laws he doesn’t like. The fact that I may like the current president doesn’t make the executive’s usurpation of power any more acceptable from a constitutional standpoint.
To get back to where I started, we can and should repeal Obamacare, but until it is properly repealed those provisions which are enacted into law should be enforced. It’s just the law, and it’s the job of the president to enforce our laws whether he likes them or not. Obama acted as a dictator; Trump should act like a president.