Here’s what I said when former President Barack Obama was using his pen to bypass Congress and enact his agenda: Executive orders are the tool of a dictatorship and an affront to representative government.
It was the same thing I said when President George W. Bush was issuing executive orders to avoid the hard work of building congressional consensus for a desired policy.
And now I say it one more time in regard to President Donald Trump, who as a candidate railed against this abuse of presidential power.
No matter how worthy and necessary the policies a president is hoping to enact, executive orders are the wrong way to get the job done.
And yet this week, Trump, the self-described swamp drainer, will jump deep into the Washington political mire and issue an executive order to basically repeal and replace Obamacare.
I’ve got no beef with Trump’s solution. His order reportedly will allow insurers more flexibility in writing plans to suit individual needs, let small businesses form risk pools to cut employee insurance costs and permit insurance companies to compete across state lines.
These are the key elements of the plans congressional Republicans have introduced, and which repeatedly failed to get enough votes to pass.
And that’s the big problem with Trump’s order. Congress has already rejected his ideas.
The Founders, in dividing power between the three branches of government, envisioned a system of checks and balances. Executive orders blow that system apart.
The Constitution does not make exceptions for presidential frustration. If a president can’t get his agenda through Congress, he must work harder to build consensus, or shelf the desired policies and appeal to the American people to give him a different Congress to work with in the next election.
Another issue with this specific order is that policies enacted by executive order lack certainty. The next president can overturn them, as Trump did and is doing with Obama’s edicts on climate change and immigration.
Convincing insurance companies, which already turned their businesses inside out to implement Obamacare, to start over with a new model based on an executive order will be tough. They know the next president can undo their work with the stroke of a pen.
Trump is pursuing the right objectives in reforming the disastrous Affordable Care Act. But he’s using the wrong tactic.
Health care needs a permanent fix, and the only way to deliver that is with congressional approval.
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