“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 Even such duly-enacted laws can be repealed or defunded by Congress (with the President’s permission or by overriding his veto).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.

Public debate over NSA spying has only just begun

If you thought last week’s vote on the amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) to defund the NSA was the end of the fight to restore privacy rights, think again.

Just a couple years ago, it seemed that the PATRIOT Act and other constitutionally questionable legislation were destined to pass each time they came up for renewal. There were some minor victories along the way, but news of the NSA’s broad surveillance program, through which the agency collects third-party records (including phone records and Internet metadata), sparked a welcome backlash from Americans and many members of Congress.

The result was a strong push by civil libertarians from both parties to preserve the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right to privacy, but not hamper the intelligence community from doing their jobs. Instead of blanket surveillance, however, Amash’s amendment would have simply required that data collection “pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation.”

The vote on the Amash amendment was much closer that many civil libertarians thought it would be. Just two years ago, the PATRIOT Act, through which the NSA has claimed the power to broadly surveil Americans, was renewed by a 275-144 vote.

Amash amendment to defund NSA snooping defeated

The House voted against the Fourth Amendment last night after a heated debate about the amendment that Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) introduced which would defund the NSA’s unconstitutional spying programs.

The vote was remarkably close, with 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voting for the Amash amendment. More remarkable still was the unanimous opposition to the Amendment by both Republican and Democratic Leadership. As Roll Call reported:

The vote made for strange bedfellows. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., all voted against the amendment. Pelosi spoke against the Amash’s amendment at a behind-closed-doors Caucus meeting Wednesday, according to a source in the room.

This debate really gets at the heart of the problem with the NSA spying programs. Those that spoke out against the bill said that it would cripple our national security. Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said that it would set us back to where we were on “September 10.”

While of course national security is important, there is no reason for the NSA to collect millions of phone records and emails without a cause – and without a warrant. This is the exactly situation that the Fourth Amendment was written for, and it looks like a majority of our elected officials in the House are willing to destroy it.

House Republicans plan votes on Obamacare measures

Among the first votes of the new year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will vote either today or tomorrow on a pair of bills dealing security and transparency as it relates to the federal Obamacare exchange website, (emphasis added):

The House is rounding out its first week back after the holidays with a pair of votes Friday aimed at the security and functionality of It’s a jab at the Obama administration after the website launch fiasco and follows repeated Republican criticisms about what they say was inadequate testing of the website security. It’s a strategy that’s likely to play out from now right up until the midterm elections.

One bill offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) would require the Department of Health and Human Services to notify Americans within two days if their personal information has been compromised on the new insurance exchanges. The other, sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), would require the administration to publicize weekly reports detailing the performance of the federal website.
Republicans’ new year’s Obamacare energy is reminiscent of 2011, when they kicked off the year by voting to ditch the whole law. But the tone is different this year, now that the law is a reality and not just an impending change.

Republicans say now they can respond to specific problems with the law — instead of just trying to scrap it all. The votes this week, for instance, don’t repeal or defund all or part of the health law, as a few dozen prior House votes did.

Is Cruz Smarter Than We Think?

The vote occurred today in the House on a healthcare plan that defunds Obamacare, and Senator Ted Cruz, in the lead up to that vote, took a lot of heat for essentially keeping the pressure on the House to vote in favor of the bill, which will ultimately set the stage for a showdown in the Senate that could lead to a government shutdown:

More than 140 congressional Republicans signed on to the bill to keep the government running at existing funding levels and delay the health care law. Democrats have vowed to oppose that bill, warning the strategy risks a government shutdown, with funding set to expire by Oct. 1.

Under the proposal, Americans who purchase coverage through state-run exchanges can claim a $7,500 deduction against their income and payroll taxes, regardless of the cost of the insurance. Families could deduct $20,000. The plan also increases government funding for high-risk pools.

The house voted today to defund:

House Republicans immediately held a press conference after the vote where conference leadership explained that they took action to defund ObamaCare “on behalf of the American people,” a majority of whom oppose the law and want it repealed, and hailed the CR’s passage as a “bipartisan vote.” They also explained that ObamaCare is having precarious effects on the nation’s economy and Americans.

Michigan Republican pushes to defund unconstitutional NSA snooping

The House of Representatives could take up the annual defense appropriations bill this week, but may take the extraordinary step of limiting amendments in what seems to be an attempt to stop an effort to defend the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional spying program.

On Monday, The Hill reported that Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was urging House Republican leaders to allow his amendment to come to the floor for a vote:

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is mounting a push this week to defund the surveillance programs at the National Security Agency.

Amash said Monday that the defense appropriations bill, which could come to the House floor this week, was a chance to stop the NSA’s “unconstitutional spying on Americans.”

“Most important bill this week: DoD Approps. We can defund #NSA’s unconstitutional spying on Americans—if House leaders allow amendments, Amash tweeted Monday.

Ted Cruz introduces legislation to defund ObamaCare

Republicans in Congress are continuing to play offense on ObamaCare, announcing a number of legislative proposals to interupt various parts of the unpopular law. For example, the House will vote this week to delay the individual mandate while Senate Republicans have asked President Obama to “permanently delay” all implementation.

But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has offered another alternative. He has introduced legislation that would fully defund ObamaCare, making further implementation state exchanges and IRS enforcement of the individual and employers mandates completely impossible.

“Consistent with my long-standing position that no continuing resolution or other appropriations measure should fund Obamacare, I am introducing a bill to permanently defund the law,” said Cruz in a statement from his office. “The Administration’s recent announcement to delay the onerous and unpopular employer mandate until after the 2014 election, coupled with its announcement to delay income and health status eligibility requirements in favor of an honor system for the most expensive entitlement for our generation, confirms what has been obvious from the start—this law is a colossal mistake.”

“Delaying only one aspect of this tangled mess leaves Americans holding the tab for an irreparably broken law they do not support,” continued Cruz. “Moreover, it leaves in motion many of the most egregious parts of the law, ensuring they will take root in just a few short months. This is untenable.”

NPR executive slams tea party movement

James O’Keefe has done it again. His group released yesterday video of an NPR senior executive on film slamming the tea party movement:

In a new video released Tuesday morning by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, [National Public Radio senior executive Ron] Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, are seen meeting with two men who, unbeknownst to the NPR executives, are posing as members of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust, met with Schiller and Liley at Café Milano, a well-known Georgetown restaurant, and explained their desire to give up to $5 million to NPR because, “the Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere.”

On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said.

If at first you can’t repeal, then defund

Is defunding ObamaCare the answer if Republicans can’t drum up enough votes to repeal it? Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) thinks so:

Burgess, a licensed obstetrician and the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, told attendees at a Health Affairs Media Breakfast that while repeal of the new law is unlikely; shutting down funding to implement it could be just as effective. Such a move is “an opportunity for those of us who think it’s a bad product,” Burgess said. He added that Republicans have not changed their opposition to the “badly flawed” Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the three months since it became law.

While I’m not convinced that Republicans won’t fall in love with parts of ObamaCare when/if they gain back control of Congress in the next cycle or two, if they don’t have the votes to repeal, I’d certainly take this option.

H/T: Reason

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