A common refrain is that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. But it's not the law of all the land.
Acts of conscience, for better or worse
A common refrain during the current debate over Obamacare, and one the Star Tribune repeated in its Oct. 2 editorial, is that the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, signed by the president, affirmed by the Supreme Court and is the law of the land; therefore, House Republicans should stop opposing it. But a minor correction is needed: It’s the law of only some of the land. It’s not the law for more than a thousand businesses and organizations that received an exemption. It’s not the law for members of Congress, who similarly asked for an exemption (and yet have the hubris to lecture conservatives about respecting this law). It’s not even a law for President Obama, who ignored deadlines therein when he unilaterally delayed the employer mandate. But as a silver lining, I’m sure this newfound respect for laws will mean renewed enforcement of our immigration laws and the Defense of Marriage Act, laws President Obama previously said he would ignore.
ERIK MARKSBERRY, Circle Pines
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What we are facing is a constitutional crisis, as the Star Tribune’s Oct. 2 editorial made clear. If the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate were delayed by a year, as the Chicago Tribune suggested in an editorial reprinted on the facing page, there is no reason Republicans would not do the same thing next year to force Obama to privatize Social Security, turn Medicare into a voucher program or defund Medicaid. This crisis is not about funding the government or Obamacare. It is about Republicans using extortion to undo laws they cannot change any other way.
JAN LINN, Apple Valley
Obama needn’t break the law; Congress is
Henry Aaron, the author “Mr. President, good luck — break a law” (Oct. 1), got just about everything wrong. The premise of his article is based on the following assertion: “The Constitution requires the president to spend what the law orders him to spend, to raise only those taxes Congress has authorized him to impose and to borrow no more than Congress authorizes.”
The Constitution expressly gives Congress the exclusive power to impose or “lay” taxes and to pay the debts of the United States (Article I, Section 8). However, nowhere in its text does it require the president to spend the money Congress has appropriated. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment provides in relevant part: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions … shall not be questioned.”
Title 31, Section 301 of the U.S. Code sets an aggregate limit on the public debt which may be changed by Congress from time to time.
If Congress does not raise the debt limit to pay debt it has authorized, it will clearly be calling into question the validity of the public debt in violation of the 14th Amendment. Constitutional provisions trump statutes. It is Congress that is breaking the law. The president should ignore the debt limit statute under these circumstances and honor the Constitution.
STEPHEN A. BARD, Edina
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.