ObamaCare, Democracy, and Jonathan Cohn

At The New Republic’s blog, Jonathan Cohn grumbles about the insolence of ObamaCare opponents:

Across the country, Republican state officials vilify the law…In Washington, Republican members of Congress are trying to undermine the law by denying funding for outreach and implementation. According to a report by Elise Viebeck  in The Hill, a few Republicans have suggested they won’t help constituents having trouble enrolling in the new insurance options. And, as Anne Kim and Ed Kilgore from the Washington Monthly recently reported, they’re even refusing to work with churches on crafting a bipartisan fix to what looks like a predictable, if inevitable, glitch in the law’s drafting.

Nobody expects Republicans to praise Obamacare or to give up efforts at repeal, assuming they feel strongly about it. But, as long as Obamacare remains on the books, don’t even its critics have some obligation to enforce the law in good faith? Shouldn’t they be helping constituents without insurance to take advantage of the law’s new options?

Let’s first examine the absurdity of Cohn complaining that “Republican members of Congress are trying to undermine the law by denying funding for outreach and implementation.” Wait, you mean ObamaCare didn’t include enough funding for its own implementation? How does the fault for that lie with congressional Republicans (who opposed this law), rather than congressional Democrats (who enacted it with inadequate funding)? Doesn’t the need for additional funding mean ObamaCare will cost more than supporters claimed when they enacted it? And wasn’t that an accusation they denied? Shouldn’t Cohn be criticizing Democrats for that, too? Does Cohn really mean to say that legislators have a duty to vote to fund a law they want to repeal? Does he also believe legislators have a duty to fund “outreach and implementation” for anti-sodomy laws? What about voter-ID laws? Marijuana prohibition is horribly under-funded; think of all the users who don’t go to jail. Do legislators have a duty to ensure those laws are fully funded and implemented? Do they have a duty to fix any glitches in those laws?

As for Cohn’s question, “as long as Obamacare remains on the books, don’t even its critics have some obligation to enforce the law in good faith?” Any middle-school civics student could tell him the answer is “no.” In our system of government, the executive branch enforces the law, not the legislature, and not the citizenry. So with respect to the federal government, that means there are exactly zero ObamaCare opponents who have a duty to enforce this law. The Supreme Court has clarified that nobody at the state level has a duty to enforce it, either. Given that many opponents (including me) believe ObamaCare to be an unjust law, we could go farther and say critics have a moral duty to resist or disobey itFinally, it’s hard to take Cohn seriously when Jonathan Adler and I are trying to get the Obama administration to enforce the law in good faith, yet Cohn is trying to stop us.