The President should continue to say no

The President should continue to say no to any continuing resolution that seeks to change the Affordable Care Act.  He should also continue to refuse to accept anything other than a clean debt ceiling vote.   Future presidents, Republican and Democrat, will thank him.  So will history.

The Affordable Care Act was the central issue of the 2012 presidential election. The challenger who promised its repeal lost decisively.  And while pure electoral mandates in our constitutionally divided system are often difficult to ascertain, the results of the 2012 election should have stifled the “repeal at all costs” crowd.

The history of complex legislation points to the need for fixing component parts that aren’t working properly or have created unintended consequences.  But the radical elements in the House and the Senate have prevented any meaningful effort to fix the Act.

With them it is all repeal, all defund, all the time even at the expense of shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt.

The President is right to accept none of it.  He should resist any effort to change one iota of the Affordable Care Act in order to lift the government shutdown.  He should resist piecemeal efforts to reopen parts of the government in exchange for changing, repealing, or defunding any aspect of ACA.

No President should be forced to accept changes to an important and complex piece of legislation under the threat of a government shutdown.  Certainly no President who wants to protect the constitutional status of the executive branch.

Changing laws should be the product of the normal legislative process and subject to electoral ratification, congressional oversight, and, possibly, judicial review.

A President who allows a radical element in Congress to dictate terms that run counter to the law, a Supreme Court decision, and the results of a national election will put the executive branch in a position of extraordinary constitutional inferiority.

President Eisenhower battled somewhat similar elements, lead by Republican Senator John Bricker, who sought to dramatically scale back the constitutional executive in matters of foreign policy.  Today’s radicals are no less dangerous to the executive.

Consider the need to raise the debt limit by October 17.  Most analysts agree that not raising the debt limit will have severe consequences for the national and world economy.  Yet the radical voices in Congress insist that a vote to raise the debt limit be tied to changes in the Affordable Care Act or additional spending cuts.

Congressional inability to raise the debt limit will call into question the validity of the public debt held by the United States, in direct violation of the express terms of the Constitution. 

Should Congress persist in this reckless vein, the President should issue an executive order pursuant to the terms of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to ensure that all public debts are paid.

Such an action to protect the Constitution will have the added impact of protecting the world economy.  It will enrage the radical elements in Congress but, really, there is no end to that which enrages them.  Their rage is preferable to the alternative.

Imagine a constitutional universe where a radical faction in Congress, ignoring election results and settled law, can force the executive branch to make major policy changes by resorting to the time-tested threat of shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt.  Under what circumstances could any President pursue a policy agenda knowing that a faction of one party could successfully derail it by refusing the raise the debt limit?

The executive power should not be fettered by fringe elements that seek to upend democratic and constitutional norms in pursuit of their ideological agenda.  Presidential power in the future, to be exercised by Republicans and Democrats, depends on the current President’s willingness to stare down today’s radicals who have seriously overplayed their hand.

The President must defend his office by simply saying, “no.”

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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13 Responses to The President should continue to say no

  1. Jeff Semon says:

    Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the US House must pass bills that the President and Senate Majority Leader like. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the House must fund ill-conceived and counter productive legislative monstrosities.

    You are either woefully unqualified to be speaking on the subject, or willfully ignorant. Either way, the far left progressive agenda you favor – that eliminates checks and balances – is being exposed for what it is.

    • Jeff, the absurdity of your “argument” here is revealed by the fact that it can be applied against your point just as convincingly. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the Senate or the President must pass or sign legislation approved in the House, or that they must de-fund a major program passed into law by a majority in both houses and ratified by the results of the most recent federal elections simply because a faction within the House Majority Party demands it. So you see, the present impasse could just as easily be characterized as an example of House Republicans trying to eliminate checks and balances.

      You don’t seem to have noticed this gigantic logical flaw in your argument Jeff, which makes your subsequent scolding of Prof. U quite ironic and his casual dismissal of your view quite charitable.

      • Jeff Semon says:

        That is why under divided government they’re “supposed” to make deals. If neither side wants to capitulate on some aspect, then yes, a shutdown occurs.

        Not negotiating with “radical hostage takers” is designed to score a political advantage, period.

        If one wants to govern, they would make a deal.

        Either decision is at their own electoral peril.
        Regardless, my point does not have any “logical flaw” unless you’d like to check pick when the Constitution applies.

        To your credit, you do not do this as much as Professor Ubertaccio appears to do.

        And yes, you’re considered “young” up until age 40 for MFYRs. While my knees would probably say otherwise.

  2. You caught me Jeff. And here I was so sure no one would notice that I’m an unqualified, willfully ignorant, far left progressive. But, super sleuth that you are, you managed to out me.

  3. Jeff Semon says:

    You’re welcome smart guy. I often cede intellectual superiority to folks like you who would undoubtedly keep the same point of view if the roles were reversed.

    Like in the 80′s with Reagan and O’Neill.

    You’re a credit to academia.

  4. How interesting … the professor draws a line in the sand and then loudly condemns those on the other side of the aisle who have done the same!

    • Jerold Duquette says:

      “Line in the sand” equivalence? So, hostage takers and those who refuse to give in to hostage takers are both just standing their ground? Not what I’d call persuasive analysis professor.

  5. Brendan P. Myers says:

    On a totally different subject, how “young” does one have to be to be a “young” Republican? Anecdotally, it would appear their rules are far less stringent than those regarding Sugar Mountain.

    • Patrick Johnson says:

      20-40 years old.

      • Brendan P. Myers says:

        If that’s the official answer, I find it strange they wouldn’t embrace eighteen-year-olds voting for the first time, or even try to attract politically active high schoolers. And there is nothing “young” about forty. But I appreciate the response!

        • Patrick Johnson says:

          Looks like I was mistaken. Generally speaking, students in high school have the Teen Age Republicans and college students have the College Republicans. Then after that is the Young Republicans. According to the Mass YR website the age range for membership is 18-40: massyrs.org/about/

  6. Pingback: The New White Primary |

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