President Obama Won't Answer Your Stupid Question About Whether the Employer Mandate Delay Was Legal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 30 2013 9:37 AM

President Obama Won't Answer Your Stupid Question About Whether the Employer Mandate Delay Was Legal

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Not just a lawyer, a constitutional lawyer.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Liberal commentators didn't really pick up on it yesterday, but for conservatives the key moment of Barack Obama's New York Times interview was his dismissive answer to a question about the employer mandate delay. Asked whether he'd consulted with lawyers before making that call, Obama dodged, then derided the idea.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

If Congress thinks that what I’ve done is inappropriate or wrong in some fashion, they’re free to make that case. But there’s not an action that I take that you don't have some folks in Congress who say that I'm usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency. And I don't think that's a secret. But ultimately, I’m not concerned about their opinions -- very few of them, by the way, are lawyers, much less constitutional lawyers.

Got that? Every critique of Obama's decision-making ends up with some "abuse of power" charge, so he'll just ignore all the critiques.

This has been the party line since the mandate was delayed. On July 10, ABC News' Jonathan Karl went a few rounds with Jay Carney over the questions from Republicans—his new hook was a rant from Tom Harkin, in which the Iowa Democrat joined the skeptics.

Q: The issue of the employer mandate being delayed a year, under what authority did the White House decide to implement that law a year later than the law itself calls for? I mean, it's been a law passed by the Congress. 
MR. CARNEY: Jon, there are experts a plenty who can provide the specifics for you on this, both inside and outside the government.
Q: Because the Democratic chairman of the Senate Health Committee said you have no authority.
MR. CARNEY: I highly recommend picking up any issue of the Federal Register and finding in it examples of rules and waivers and that sort of thing.  This is not an unusual process.  And this reflects an effort that the hue and cry, the calamitous hollering that you hear is reflective of a political and partisan effort to undermine --
Q: I’m talking about Tom Harkin.  Are you saying that he’s --
MR. CARNEY: No, you’re not talking about Tom Harkin.  You're talking about the Republican effort to --
Q: Tom Harkin said you had no authority to do this.
MR. CARNEY:  -- to complain about the -- listening to business -- to postpone a deadline that affects 4 percent of businesses with 50 or more employees, when they’ve done everything they can to undermine the law from day one.  They don't want to see it implemented.  They’ve made that clear.  So we're listening -- we're being --
Q: Tom Harkin wants this implemented, but on --
MR. CARNEY: Jon, you can pretend this is about Tom Harkin, but you know it’s not.

None of these were answers. They were expressions of contempt. Lots of that going around.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.