Why fix a problem that you created, when you can blame others and make an election year issue out of it? That’s essentially the Obama White House’s strategy after its Hobby Lobby case defeat at the Supreme Court on Monday.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that closely held corporations can base some employee health care benefit decisions on the owners’ religious beliefs. It was a pro-private property rights and pro-religious freedom decision, the latter a rarity in the Obama years. Hobby Lobby, owned by the deeply Christian Green family, sued to get out from under the Obamacare mandate that would force them to either provide abortifacient drugs in their employee health benefits or pay huge fines. The Greens had said that they would not comply, and would consider closing their 572 stores nationwide rather than go against their beliefs (beliefs widely held by millions of Christians). Hobby Lobby already provides coverage for 16 different contraceptives, just not ones that act after conception. Hobby Lobby also pays its hourly employees on average about double the national minimum wage.
The mandate in question was created by fiat in Obamacare regulations. It was not written into the original law.
The Obama administration has in the past used regulations to have the federal government give abortifacient benefits to employees of religious groups that were carved out of the Obamacare mandate on religious objections.
But according to Time magazine, the Obama administration and the Democrats will not go that route after Hobby Lobby. Instead, they will use the summer to put pressure on congressional Republicans to pass a law to “fix” the problem.
[White House spokesman Josh] Earnest quickly added that President Obama, who has been touring the country promoting his ability to work around Congress, plans no immediate executive actions to remedy the situation created by the Hobby Lobby ruling. “The Supreme Court was ruling on the application of a specific law that was passed by Congress,” Earnest said. “So what we’d like is for Congress to take action to pass another law that would address this problem.”
This is a notable departure in strategy for the White House that is likely to increase the visibility of the issue in an election year, while delaying the arrival of a solution for those women who will now be denied certain contraceptive coverage. All signs Monday pointed to the fact that Democrats would rather stage a political fight over the issue than quickly resolve it for the affected women. Both the Democratic Party and the White House Twitter accounts spend much of the day rallying people to outrage on social media over the decision.
So, the Democrats want the Republicans to vote on a fix to a law that they despise, on an issue on which most Republicans are united with their base, but on which the left can be fired up to outrageous outrage for the next few months.
How cynical is this? The Obama administration created the problem, failed to defend its position adequately at the Supreme Court, and lost. A regulatory problem could easily see a regulatory fix, but Team Obama isn’t going that route. They would rather stoke outrage instead. 2014 looks set to be a very annoying summer.
The gambit is set well. Congress won’t act, for a whole lot of reasons. Even Democrats don’t want to be caught out fixing Obamacare this year. Obama will pretend to be vexed, as he pretended to be during his immigration bit on Monday, haul out his “We can’t wait!” line and set himself out as the messiah of birth control. It’s amazing that even his froth-mouthed progressive base takes him seriously anymore.