Free Markets, Free People

legislative process


Ignoring the law to buy votes

One of the bits of genius installed by the founders of this country was three co-equal branches of government, each responsible for a different part of the governing turf.  And the function of the three is not only to be the primary governmental institution in its explicit area of control, but to serve as a "check” on the others and provide “balance” by not letting one branch get more powerful than another.

In the area of immigration, to this point, the executive branch, under Barack Obama, has mostly done that with notable exceptions.   But now, it appears, all appearances of following the law as laid down by Congress seems to have been thrown under the bus.   The Obama administration has, for all intents and purposes, decided what how the law will be interpreted whether Congress likes it or not.   After all, there’s an election in the offing, activist groups to be satisfied and votes to be bought:

Bowing to pressure from immigrant rights activists, the Obama administration said Thursday that it will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria, such as attending school, having family in the military or having primary responsible for other family members’ care.

The move marks a major step for President Obama, who for months has said he does not have broad categorical authority to halt deportations and said he must follow the laws as Congress has written them.

But in letters to Congress on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she does have discretion to focus on “priorities” and that her department and the Justice Department will review all ongoing cases to see who meets the new criteria.

“This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety,” she said. “Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high-priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.”

Right … and to totally ignore cases against illegal immigrants who meet the arbitrary standards the administration finds to be “acceptable”.

This, of course, makes it clear to any illegal immigrant what the bare minimum is necessary to avoid deportation.  It’s a government sponsored “okay” to stay illegally.  Just meet one of the criteria (or appear too) and we’ll ignore the law for you.

However you feel about illegal immigration, we’ve always featured ourselves as a nation of laws, not men.   A nation of laws is one which follows laws and, if they don’t like the law, feel it is fair, or whatever, go through the process of changing the law or abolishing it.   What a nation of laws doesn’t do is ignore the law or arbitrarily pick and choose the parts it will follow.   Imagine, if you will, deciding that you weren’t going to follow certain laws because you felt they were unfair.  Say, doing 25 in a school zone.  You tell the officer who stops you that doing 25 is not fuel efficient and you’ve chosen to ignore it and do 45.  How far do you think that would get you in terms of avoiding a ticket?

In this case we have an administration that has decided to pick and choose what part of laws it will enforce.  It isn’t the first.  But this sort of blatant disregard for enforcing the law is both dangerous and something which needs to be stopped and stopped now.

If the executive branch finds a law to be something it has concerns or problems with, it’s recourse should be changing it through the legislative body, per the Constitution.   Or taking it to the Judicial branch for a Constitutional check, if that’s appropriate.  What it must not do is precisely what it is doing – ignoring Congress and literally taking the law into its own hands. 

That is the law of men – arbitrary, selective, dangerous and wrong. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


If ObamaCare is so good, why all the exemptions?

The short answer, of course, is it is a monstrous bill law those effected by it are just beginning to understand. And maybe it’s just me but when you begin to grant waivers to the law, a) you’re playing special interest politics (it applies to the little people but not the politically well connected) and b) the law is obviously flawed.

The total of exemptions granted by the Obama administration has now swelled to 222  (list here).

One of the more recognizable business names included on the newly-expanded list of waivers issued by the feds is that of Waffle House, which received a waiver on November 23 for health coverage that covers 3,947 enrollees.

Another familiar name was that of Universal Orlando, which runs a variety of very popular resorts in the Orlando, Florida area. Universal was given a waiver for plans that cover 668 workers. These waivers deal with limited health benefit plans, sometimes referred to as "mini-med" policies, which companies as large as McDonald’s use for some its employees. The plan have limits on how much can be paid out in coverage, limits which would be phased out under the new health reform law.

The feds though have granted waivers from that law, amid concern that certain groups would drop their health insurance programs entirely. Those waivers are good for one year, and can be considered for renewal.

That final line is important because, of course, it gives the government leverage to push for changes in coverage within the companies it has to this point exempted. If not, it simply lets the exemption expire. But that doesn’t change the fact that the only the politically connected to this point have been exempted. Instead of admitting the problem with the law and issuing a blanket exemption to all businesses that are effected like the favored few, the administration prefers to do “favors” for those that apply.

Among those so favored to this point are – surprise – a number of unions:

Several weeks ago, critics singled out a number of unions which had received government approval for exemptions from certain provisions of the law dealing with annual medical spending limit requirements.

And there are more unions who have received waivers in this latest batch, like the Bricklayers Local 1 of MD, VA and DC, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, the Indiana Teamsters Health Benefits Fund, Service Employees International Union Local 1 Cleveland Welfare Fund, and more are listed.

This, of course, is a result of poorly written legislation that wasn’t debated, vetted or carefully considered.  It is a mish-mash of liberal wishes and desires bundled in a huge and unread document and shoved through the legislative process in a most underhanded way.  The fallout has been gradual but building as more and more companies get into the nitty-gritty of what this will mean to them.  And the waiver apps are flying.  Since mid-November, the waivers granted has doubled from 111 to 222.   And there’s no reason to believe that’s going to slow down as the implementation dates near.

It is also another in a long line of reasons the business climate in this country remains unsettled.  The fact that a company gets a waiver doesn’t mean that within a year the administration will decide it must comply.  I’m sure these businesses have already calculated the cost to them of such a demand.  Would you do any major hiring or expansion with that hanging over your head?

Yeah, neither would I.

~McQ


Who is the reactionary now? (update)

Ezra Klein has this to say about “the process” now under fire by Republicans:

So far in the health-care debate, Republicans have attacked the legitimacy of private negotiations, parochial deal making, the budget reconciliation process, self-executing rules, the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis, and even the constitutionality of the legislation. It’s a good theory: Make people hate Washington and mistrust the legislative process and you’ll make people hate and mistrust what emerges from that process.

But it’s also dangerous. As Republicans well know, private negotiations between lawmakers, deals that advantage a state or a district, and a base level of respect for the CBO’s scores have long been central to the lawmaking progress. As the parties have polarized, reconciliation and self-executing rules (like deem and pass) have become more common — and the GOP’s own record, which includes dozens of reconciliation bills and self-executing rules, proves it.

As anyone can tell who has read this far, Klein is championing the status quo. Private negotiations, not transparency. Deals that advantage a state or district, not equal treatment under the law, parliamentary tricks vs. up or down votes as well as gaming the CBO and blowing off constitutional questions.

And his defense? Well the GOP’s done it too.

His defense is all about the process and how the process has worked in the past and should be left alone.  What did he say?  Attacking tha misbegotten process is a good “theory” but practically it’s “dangerous”.

Is it?

Do you find it at all ironic that the group – “progressives” – who were just recently championing transparency are now defending a completely opaque process with private closed-door negotiations and special deals isn’t it?

Klein goes on:

The GOP’s answer to this is that health-care reform is important. Stopping the bill is worth pulling out all the stops. And I’m actually quite sympathetic to this view. Outcomes are, in fact, more important than process. But once you’ve taken the stops out, it’s hard to put them back in. Democrats will launch the very same attacks when they’re consigned to the minority, and maybe think up a few new ones of their own.

Pulling out all the stops, as any fair observer would note, is certainly not at all confined to the GOP side (I swear, given my time observing and writing about them, “progressives” or liberals, whatever label they prefer today, are truly irony impaired). On the Democrat side we’ve seen gaming the CBO, leaving out critical health care legislation (doc fix) to make the numbers look better, stupid accounting tricks like double counting, locking the opposing party out of the process and then claiming they’re the “party of no” and parliamentary tricks that would make a banana republic blush.

And then there’s deception like this:

Democrats are planning to introduce legislation later this spring that would permanently repeal annual Medicare cuts to doctors, but are warning lawmakers not to talk about it for fear that it will complicate their push to pass comprehensive health reform. The plans undercut the party’s message that reform lowers the deficit, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.

Undercuts it?  It destroys it (139 billion deficit reduction over 10 years v. 200 to 250 billion pay out to doctors over 10 years : net -61 to -111 billion even with their numbers over 10 years).

If “pulling out all the stops” means cleaning up a process like that, I say pull em out even further. And if it comes back to bite the GOP, so be it. It would most likely end up being a good thing.  Because it would probably mean they’re trying the same sort of crap the Democrats are trying to pull of now.

UPDATE: Ed Morrisey is reporting the memo cited by Politico could be a hoax.  He’s apparently verified that it exists and has been seen by sources of his on the hill, but Democrats are denying it’s theirs.  That said, I listened to Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tell Greta Van Susteren essentially the same thing the purported memo says, last night on Fox, i.e. there would most likely be a permanent legislative solution offered for the “doc fix” soon (i.e. the cut will be repealed).

~McQ