Each week seems to bring another example of the Obama administration’s government-by-executive-decree. Last Thursday it was a quiet posting on the Health and Human Services website exempting U.S. territories, with more than 4 million residents, from key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The 2000-page statute setting up Obamacare clearly states territories count as “states” for purposes of rules like guaranteed issue and community rating of health insurance policies. But that didn’t faze administration officials who let Puerto Rico, Guam and other territories off the hook after their already thin markets collapsed because of the regs.
Is this how a government of laws is supposed to work? Philip Hamburger thinks not. The Columbia Law School professor has come out with a provocative new book, “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?,” that argues the modern administrative state resembles nothing so much as the government of King James I, where the monarch meted out his own form of justice in the infamous Star Chamber, free from the interference of meddling independent judges.
“Who knew that if you get a letter from an executive officer you don’t have to obey the law?” Hamburger asks. “Here in a republic we end up having much more deference (to executive power) than James I had.”