Email #133: “war against the Constitution”?

You wrote in 2014:

“President Obama declared war against the Constitution by changing our immigration laws on his own and Congress today began its fight against this unprecedented power grab by passing the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act.”

That bill, which you enthusiastically voted for, stated that it would:

“prohibit the executive branch from exempting from removal categories of aliens considered under the immigration laws to be unlawfully present in the United States.”

The issue, you argued, wasn’t just about immigration, but the Constitution itself:

“it is the role of Congress to make all laws, the Judiciary to interpret the laws, and the President to enforce the laws. This system was wisely set into place by our country’s framers over 200 years ago because they knew first hand that the concentration of power in the same hands was a threat to individual liberty and the rule of law. President Obama’s decision to ignore the limitations placed on his authority and claim legislative power threatens to undo our system of government.”

The principle, you insisted, was preventing “the President from changing our laws unilaterally.” But where is that principle now that a Republican President is waging a new “war against the Constitution”?

On January 20, President Trump signed an executive order requiring agencies to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the [Affordable Care] Act that would impose a fiscal burden …” If the meaning of the order was unclear, Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway clarified it two days later when she said the President would “stop enforcing the individual mandate,” the tax penalty that is part of the ACA law and that was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.

As a result of the executive order, the IRS is no longer enforcing the penalty. Although all Americans are still legally obligated to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty administered by the IRS, the IRS is ignoring the law. Taxpayers can simply leave blank the line on their return requiring them to disclose whether they have insurance.

According to the Constitution, it’s the President’s job to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” President Trump is doing the opposite. His executive order prevents provisions of the ACA from being executed.

When you objected to President Obama’s selective implementation of immigration laws, you called it “war against the Constitution.” But because you personally agree with President Trump’s selective implementation of the Affordable Care law, you say nothing.

If Obama’s actions threatened to “undo our system of government,” then so do Trump’s. This would be obvious to you if the U.S. Constitution were more to you than a political prop and if your own actions were guided by principle rather than convenience.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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