Obama, health care and the division of government powers
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 02:04
Have strong views on the separation of church and state? You’re not alone. But what about the separation of powers within a government?
We all are aware of the political divisions in government, but less aware and adamant on the foundational, systematic divisions of governance – a key to keeping America a constitutional republic with an equal balance of power.
Remember the three branches of government? Executive, legislative and judicial. The President, Congress and Supreme Court of the United States.
Following the end of oral arguments in the Supreme Court concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s health care bill, the president said that he didn’t believe the Supreme Court would take “an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
There are only a few problems with his remarks.
First, the House passed the health care law in March 2010 by a 219 to 212 margin. Hardly a “strong majority,” with every single Republican – and 34 Democrats – voting against it.
Second, the health care law has and will continue to remain unpopular with a strong majority of Americans. A recent Gallup poll shows that 72 percent believe the bill’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, and the law is only popular with 36 percent of those surveyed in a CBS/New York Times poll.
Third, the whole point of the Supreme Court is to ensure the constitutionality of bills passed by Congress and signed by the president, which is something we hope President Obama taught during his time as a constitutional law professor.
The White House has had a difficult time explaining and defending President Obama’s comments since, obviously, it would not be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to overturn a law based on its constitutionality.
On the grounds of having majority support, the law continues to drop in popularity. A Pew Research Center survey found that 23 percent of those surveyed had a less favorable view of the Affordable Care Act at the end of oral arguments in court, with only 7 percent leaving with a more favorable view.
President Obama has every right to try and tout the health care law as landmark legislation passed during his administration. It’s his baby, so naturally he wants to protect it.
However, President Obama has no business telling the American people (or in this case, the Supreme Court) that the Supreme Court should not do its job and judge the law based on its own constitutional merits just because they could potentially differ from his own.
The governing body of the nation was broken up into the three parts so that no one part had more power than the others. When the executive branch tries to suggest (some would say pressure) the judicial branch to rule a particular way, the balance is distorted.
It seems most agree that keeping checks and balances in government is the right way to go. An Easter Rasmussen poll shows that only 15 percent of those surveyed believe that the Supreme Court places too many restrictions on government activity, with twice as many thinking that the court doesn’t place enough restrictions.
No one wants a cat and mouse game between Congress and the President, or the President and the Supreme Court. But we do want the system to operate as it was designed to – which requires checks and balances.
Both parties are scrambling with back-up plans on what to do if the law is either upheld or overturned by the Supreme Court in June. Until then, both can show their support for the foundational division of power that helps keep our government in check. If they don’t, we have the power to vote them out of office come November.