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.

Email #88, Subject: “angry crowds”

The President recently tweeted: “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”

That was on February 22, the same day as a town hall held on your behalf at the Vinton community center. The fire marshal said the building had reached capacity, so the angriest group was the one forced to stand outside and listen through the open doors. The folks inside were angry too, but they stood in orderly lines before the two microphones. There was no shouting, no taunts, no sign waving, just respectfully phrased question after respectfully phrased question.

You of course weren’t there. They were addressing your cardboard cutout. They knew that in advance, but came anyway because they wanted to speak even though you weren’t going to listen let alone answer. The town hall was organized by three activist groups. They booked the space, advertised the time, did all of the tasks required to hold an event of that size. To that degree, the President is right. It was “planned out by liberal activists.”

But the crowd? And their emotion? And their respectful control? That’s not something any activist can “plan.”

I recently found an online video of one of your 2009 town halls. It included a clip of a man standing up and asking you to support President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A number of angry people with signs shouted and jeered as the man spoke and eventually sat down as they continued to mock and yell at him on your behalf. You did nothing to stop them.

Unlike the President, I assume that you did not “plan” that angry crowd. Your staff obviously planned the event, but crowds only happen if there are enough local folks willing to give up their free time and come out and participate. The anger was all theirs to. There’s nothing “sad” about that.

But the folks in Vinton were more polite than your 2009 supporters. Some of their voices wavered when they spoke. Some choked up. Some laughed. Some clenched their teeth. But none of them insulted you. None shouted jeers at you or anyone who supports you. One of the organizers began the evening by emphasizing that all were welcome and all viewpoints would be respectfully heard. You could have begun your 2009 town hall the same way. You could have established that same positive tone. You could have stopped the heckling of a man asking you a heart-felt question. Instead, you did nothing.

You apparently like it when “angry crowds” are on your side as they were when the ACA was first being passed. Now affordable health care is a nationally recognized need. The anger is at your attempts to destroy it. And now you won’t appear for any town hall, even when participants conduct themselves more respectfully than your former supporters. Now you only hold so-called “telelphone town halls.”

As much as I object to your policies, I recognize that a reasonable person could disagree with me. There’s room for rational debate. But no reasonable person can rationally agree with your double standards. They are simply wrong. You said during your telephone town hall last week that the cardboard cutout of you used at the real town hall in Vinton “demeans the process.” I disagree, but even if you are right, you must also see that your double standards demean it far far more.

Email #46, Subject: balanced budget or Obamacare repeal?

Thank you for your letter declaring your support for a balanced budget amendment. I am especially pleased to see that your position on this issue did not change because a Republican is entering the White House tomorrow. You supported this amendment under Obama, and you continue to support it under Trump. I commend that principled consistency.

I am, however, confused then why you undermined the Budget Office by barring them from calculating and reporting the cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act. If you wish to “put an end to deficit spending” as you state, this information is vital. The last estimate was $350 billion. Repealing the ACA will not only prevent Congress from balancing the budget, it will add greatly to the long-term deficit, two problems you claim are your top concerns.

I don’t understand how to interpret this extreme inconsistency. Do you believe the costs of the ACA repeal somehow don’t count? I understand you want both, but, as you say: “Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation’s citizens.”

Your contradictory positions suggest you are not living up to your own standard. Instead of ranking the repeal against its costs and making the tough decision of which matters more, you appear to be showing no restraint and pretending that you can have both. You can’t. Please acknowledge that financial fact and change one of your positions accordingly.

Email #43, Subject: preventing the budget office from doing its job?

I’m reading the rules package you voted for on the first day of the new Congress.

  1. 25: “The Director of the Congressional Budget Office shall … prepare an estimate of whether a bill … would cause … a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10 fiscal year periods….”
  2. 26: “This subsection shall not apply to any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon— (A) repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”

Does this mean that you don’t want the Budget Office to figure out how much repealing Obamacare is going to cost us? Isn’t that incredibly important information? The last estimate from 2015 was $353 billion. Why are stopping the CBO from doing its job? I thought you were a budget and deficit hawk. How could you vote yes to something that undermines one of your stated priorities? And after the public outcry over your attempt to alter the Ethics Office, your manipulation of the Budge Office only adds to the impression of incumbant corruption. If repealing Obamacare requires suppressing one of the underlying principles governing House procedures, maybe you shouldn’t be repealing it?

Chris Gavaler

Email #42, Subject: repeal but replace later?

You recently criticized Obamacare for: 1) “unaffordable premiums,” 2) “deductibles through the roof,” 3) “losing a doctor you’ve had for years,” and 4) “being dropped from the coverage you need.” May I assume these are also your top priorities for any health care bill that would replace Obamacare? If so, I strongly agree.

You also state that you “want the families who are hurting under Obamacare to feel relief as quickly possible,” but that it’s more “important that we have a transition.” Why is that exactly? What does this “stable transition period” do for those families? How does it answer your four criticisms? In what sense is it “stable” at all? Isn’t it further destabilizing the health care market?

You also state that “Before Congress can implement a new health care system that truly works for the American people, we have to get rid of what is not working today.” But getting rid of Obamacare “today” without simultaneously replacing it with something better would increase all four of the top concerns you named.

Without either Obamacare or a stronger replacement bill replacing it immediately, families who are already hurting now would face: 1) even more unaffordable premiums, 2) even higher deductibles, 3) losing even more doctors, and 4) being dropped from even more coverage plans.

The process you outlined will create a bill to “dismantle” Obamacare, but not replace it. You say you will then work on another, separate bill that will provide better health care. But how does that help the people who needed Obamacare in the first place? 

If the only thing keeping people from drowning is a half-inflated life preserver, they cling to it. You want to rip that life preserver out of Americans’ hands as you shout from the safety of the shore: “We’ll be back later with a better one.”

I understand you hate Obamacare. That’s why you call it “Obamacare” instead of the Affordable Care Act. I don’t care what it’s called. It’s all many Americans have right now. Don’t put partisan fighting ahead of the health care needs of the people you are supposed to be serving.

Chris Gavaler