President Obama in 2010 signed a law requiring large employers to offer health insurance to their employees. Earlier this Summer, President Obama announced his administration wasn’t going to require large employers to offer health insurance to their employees.
Perhaps there is some explanation why it’s okay for Obama to do this. But if you ask Obama for that explanation, he gets pretty pissed at you. Here’s what Obama said when a New York Times reporter asked:
If Congress thinks that what I’ve done is inappropriate or wrong in some fashion, they’re free to make that case. But there’s not an action that I take that you don’t have some folks in Congress who say that I’m usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency.
Got that? Question his legal authority to ignore a law, get called a birther. It’s charming. Dave Weigel at Slate points out that Jay Carney also dodged. As Weigel aptly put it, “None of these were answers. They were expressions of contempt.”
And it’s not insane to think the President would overreach his executive authority. For instance, his IRS tried to unilaterally impose regulations on tax preparers, while lacking the statutory authority. He entered into a war in Libya without congressional authorization. He appointed a handful of lobbyists to policymaking jobs in apparent violation of his own executive order. Et cetera, et cetera….
So, why does Obama respond so derisively to these questions? Does he honestly believe it’s out of line to ask for the legal justification of the President’s unilateral actions? Or does he just see an advantage in maximizing the costs of asking him?