Negotiating with Republicans has never been in Obama's playbook. Three days after his inauguration in 2009, President Barack Obama silenced Republican lawmakers who voiced concerned about the enormity of spending in his stimulus bill by uttering two brash words, "I won."
That was his governing philosophy, as he rammed through the American Reinvestment and Recovery.
But in the fall of 2010, Republicans swept into control of the House of Representatives, and since then, Obama's agenda has been stalled. With little prospect of gaining control of the House in 2014, Obama is resorting to discrediting the Constitution's limits on presidential power rather than bargain with Congressional Republicans.
Here are the president's own words, explaining why he refuses to negotiate to end the government shutdown and resolve the fast approaching debt ceiling problem.
His views on presidential power ought to alarm all Americans.
"I will not pay ransom," said Obama, for a stopgap-spending bill to open the government.
Historically, presidents have had to make concessions to Congress to secure funding. President Reagan endured eight shutdowns. Each time he negotiated with the Democratic speaker of the house, Tip O'Neill, conceding on issues from mid-range missile defense to support for Nicaraguan contras to quickly end the shutdown.
Fast-forward to the current showdown. The House Republicans' fourth (and latest) offer asks for only two changes in Obamacare: First, eliminate the subsidy for members of Congress, which has outraged the public. Secondly, delay for a year making insurance mandatory for individuals. Let anyone enroll in Obamacare who wants to. But don't penalize individuals for being uninsured in 2014 when the president has already postponed the penalty on big companies for not insuring workers.
"The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House. It passed the Senate; the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. ... and it is settled," said Obama.
Not so. The health program the president is imposing on us is not the Affordable Care Act. The president has dismembered and mangled it. Gone is the employer mandate, the cap on out of pocket expenses, income verification and over half the deadlines specified in the law. The president delayed or did away with these features without asking Congress. Illegally. Then, he added 1, 472 waivers and connived a subsidy for members of Congress that no one else in American earning $174,000 a year could get. The Supreme Court has ruled twice that presidents cannot delay, amend and repeal parts of laws.
"It has not been done in the past, and we're not going to start doing it now," said Obama, explaining why he will not negotiate with House Republicans over raising the debt ceiling.
The truth is presidents have often had to make concessions to get the debt ceiling raised. In 1995, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tried to extract major spending reforms from President Bill Clinton. The two sides sparred for more than a week past the "deadline" for a hike. That is what the framers intended.
"That's not how our constitutional system is designed," the president said disingenuously. The designer himself, James Madison, explained in Federalist 58 that the president must come to Congress as a supplicant to borrow, tax or spend. That dependence on Congress is "the most effectual tool to remedy" any grievance the people could have against their president.
That brings us to the nefarious proposal taking shape on Capitol Hill. Senate Democrats reportedly will offer a bill shifting to the president the discretion to raise the debt ceiling any time through 2014, except if two-thirds of each house of Congress vote to disapprove. This device, first tried in the Budget Control Act of 2011, weasels around the U. S. Constitution's system of checks and balances and substantially enlarges executive power.
Who is Obama, the 44th president, to demand more borrowing latitude than his 43 predecessors?
As Madison warned in Federalist 62, "an elective despot is not what we fought for."
Betsy McCaughey is a former Lt. governor of New York and the author of "Beating Obamacare." She reads the law so you don't have to. Visit www.betsymccaughey.com. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.