Major newspaper editorial pages that President Barack Obama has generally been able to count on for support are now raising red flags about the White House's potential for executive overreach.
“Although the administration may have the right motives, its aggressive use of executive power to change deadlines and weaken requirements sets an unwelcome precedent. It also risks subverting some of the goals of the law the president is trying to protect,” the Los Angeles Times' editorial board said Monday.
The paper was referring to the Obama administration's picking and choosing which aspects of the Affordable Care Act to enforce, most recently with last week's announcement that employers with 50 to 99 employees would get a one-year exemption from the mandate to provide insurance for workers.
“Rather than changing the mandate by fiat, President Obama should have asked Congress to fix the provision,” the Times continued. “On the other hand, the Republicans who control the House have shown no interest in improving the law; they just want to kill it. So it's hard to fault Obama for not engaging in a fool's errand.”
But despite blaming anti-Obamacare sentiment from Republicans in Congress, the West coast’s largest newspaper said Obama should have made an effort to engage the co-equal branch.
“And with congressional Republicans cheering for the law to fail rather than trying to ensure its success, the administration doesn't have a lot of good options for solving the implementation problems it has encountered,” the Times said. “Still, it would be easier to defend its actions had it at least made an effort to work with Congress on the necessary fixes. And if it has to resort to bending deadlines and mandates, it should do so in a way that doesn't undermine the law's goals.”
The Los Angeles Times seems to be part of a shift with mainstream media outlets questioning Obama’s executive actions.
Last week, the Washington Post argued that the Obama administration had its own mandate: to uphold the law passed by Congress.
“Yes, Republicans have done everything they can to impede implementation of this law. Yes, their ‘solution’ — gutting the individual mandate — is an awful idea. And, yes, their public response to the administration’s action was predictably over-the-top,” the Post's editorial stated.
“But none of that excuses President Obama’s increasingly cavalier approach to picking and choosing how to enforce this law,” the Post continued. “Imagine how Democrats would respond if a President Rand Paul, say, moved into the White House in 2017 and announced he was going to put off provisions of Obamacare he thought might be too onerous to administer.”
The Obama administration has said it has the authority under the Internal Revenue Code to make changes to the law, but the Post disagreed.
“But the administration is unilaterally making distinctions between large businesses and medium ones; the latter group, which will get hit hardest and scream loudest when the employer mandate kicks in, will be treated more leniently,” the Post continued. “The law is also explicit that the government should be enforcing penalties already; that’s the plainest interpretation of Congress’s intent. The administration shouldn’t dismiss that without exceptionally good reason. Fear of a midterm shellacking doesn’t qualify as good reason.”
USA Today also weighed in last week, mostly critical of how the administration is unable to implement a law it support.
“The latest example was Monday's decision to postpone, yet again, part of the mandate that most employers provide insurance,” USA Today's editorial board said. “You can call that one either way. It is, indeed, a convenient way to defuse criticism in the fall elections. But it's also smart to get the details right before unintended damage is done. That is precisely where the administration has failed — missing its own deadlines for fulfilling parts of its own law.”
The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today are three of the five major newspaper with a national reach. The other two papers have not deviated: The New York Times' editorial page has been consistently supportive of Obama and the health care law, while the Wall Street Journal has been consistently opposed.