Why the Obamacare Mandate Delay Is a Big Deal

Pete Souza

Pete Souza

In the movie “The Naked Gun,” crack detective Frank Drebin comes across a firework factory that’s on fire and is collapsing in on itself. “Nothing to see here,” he calmly tells on-lookers as employees flee the explosions. “Please disburse.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Sarah Kliff of The Washington Post.

Kliff takes pains to explain that it’s no big deal that the Obama administration has decided to delay a large part of the employer mandate. Again. “[T]he employer mandate is not an especially important policy lever in the Affordable Care Act,” she writes at the Post’s Wonkblog. After all, she explains, most employees already have health insurance through work.

So any “delays to the employer mandate can matter politically. But as for what they mean for who Obamacare covers, this delay will likely amount to a relatively small, if non-existent, change,” she writes.

Well, outside of wonk world there’s the real world, where President Obama clearly thinks the mandate matters. In July he suspended it (for all employers) until 2015, even though the law says it should have taken effect on January 1. Now he’s unilaterally giving certain mid-sized employers another year to comply. If he thinks the mandate is workable, then bring it on and let’s find out.

But Kliff misses the larger point. The president doesn’t have the power to amend bits of laws he doesn’t like.

See also: The Imperial President Will Act on His Own

Congress included a mandate when it passed the law. Obama signed that law. So (unless lawmakers repeal it, and of course they should) the mandate should take effect, even if that causes the entire law to collapse like a burning firework factory.

For her part, Kliff is on her way out at the Post to take a job at a more partisan Web site. (No collapsing building metaphors here, please). Will ObamaCare’s mandate apply to that employer? Stay tuned.

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