“It’s the law!” is not actually an adequate defense of a law

The moment the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate to purchase health insurance under Obamacare, the primary defense of the law became “It’s the law!” Since talk began of a budget impasse over defunding this particular law, that refrain has become ubiquitous. There’s just one problem: It’s a tautology that doesn’t actually make an argument.

Every law began as a bill that was “passed by Congress, signed by the President, and approved by the Supreme Court.” Laws, once written into code, do not become inviolably permanent. Even such duly-enacted laws can be repealed or defunded by Congress (with the President’s permission or by overriding his veto). Democrats in 2007 tried to defund the Iraq war, even though it was legally authorized by Congress, i.e. “the law”.

Surprisingly (except not at all), Democrats aren’t consistent sticklers for maintaining the status quo of the law in all cases. I will list a few examples, though it should be self-evident that the “progressive” party would be generally in favor of changing the law over time.

In the current shutdown battle, many want to withhold pay from members of Congress until the government is fully funded and reopened. Unfortunately, the 27th Amendment prevents that from happening. While originally designed to keep Congress from increasing its own pay, it is written such that any change doesn’t take effect until the next Congress is sworn in. So even if Congress passed a law today to eliminate their pay during a shutdown, it wouldn’t take effect until the next Congress is worn in some time in January 2015. A constitutional amendment is the highest form of law in our republic, yet no one seems to be concerned that “It’s the law!” in this case.

The “infamous” Citizens United decision is also “the law!” but Democrats blood boils at just the mention of the name. That Supreme Court decision changed campaign finance law, but not in the way progressive activists portray it. Yet Democrats have proposed constitutional amendments to codify their preferred campaign finance regime and overrule the changes made by Citizens United, despite the fact that “It’s the law!”

Other examples could be raised, including Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, Jim Crow laws, Alien and Sedition Acts, and yes, even state laws enabling slavery. But we all know that “It’s the law!” isn’t their actual defense, because of course it can’t be. It just happens to be a law that the left likes, so they pretend it’s inviolate as a matter of fact, which is, of course, nonsense. Legally and philosophically, “It’s the law!” is a good reason to follow a law for citizens, but to legislators whose primary job is to make law, it is a meaningless canard.

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