The Obama administration, struggling with continued political fallout over its troubled health care law, said Wednesday that it would allow consumers to renew health insurance policies that do not comply with the law for two more years.
The action is a reflection of the difficulties the president has faced as he tries to build support for the Affordable Care Act, and the backlash over his promise — which he later acknowledged was overstated — that individuals who liked their insurance plans could keep them, no matter what.
….The action also helps Democrats in tight midterm election races because it avoids the cancellation of insurance policies that would otherwise have occurred at the height of the political campaign season this fall.
As regular readers know, I don’t have much patience with right-wing paranoia about how President Obama is ripping apart our democracy by relentlessly issuing executive orders and reinterpreting agency rules. But I’ll grant conservatives a bit of sympathy over both the ACA renewal delay and the employer mandate delay. In practice, neither one affects very many people, and there are colorable arguments that the law provides Obama with the authority to adjust the timing of these requirements. It would hardly be the first time that a particular provision of a complex law got delayed a bit, after all. On the other hand, most delays are due to agencies flatly being unable to meet statutory deadlines, something that’s just part of the real world. The Obamacare delays, conversely, are pretty clearly being announced for calculated political purposes. What’s more, to the best of my knowledge the administration has never provided a definitive legal justification for these actions, which suggests that they don’t really have one they aren’t embarrassed to defend.
At the end of the day, this all seems like pretty small potatoes, and I think guys like Jonathan Turley are hyperventilating a bit when they declare that “Democrats will rue the day if they remain silent in the face of this shift of power to the executive branch.” I really don’t think it’s quite as unprecedented as all that. Still, it’s all a bit dodgy, and I wish the OLC or the White House counsel or somebody would at least take a crack at seriously justifying these delays. That wouldn’t stop the chain email folks from blasting out their “Obama the tyrant” harangues, but it would go a long way toward defusing it among everyone else.