“Is it fair for the president of the United States to give American businesses an exemption from his health care law’s mandates, without giving the same exemption to the rest of America? Hell no, it’s not fair,” Speaker John A. Boehner told a closed-door gathering of House Republicans on Tuesday, according to those present.

Some Democrats were also dismayed by the White House’s actions. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and an author of the health law, questioned whether Mr. Obama had the authority to unilaterally delay the employer mandate.

“This was the law. How can they change the law?” he asked.

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In the courts of law and public opinion, congressional Republicans increasingly accuse President Barack Obama of exceeding his constitutional authority for the benefit of special interests, most recently by delaying a requirement for businesses to provide health care for their workers…

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the action was part of a pattern of “indifference to the rule of law on the part of this administration. … He did it with immigration. He did it with welfare work requirements. And he did it with the NLRB when he took it upon himself to tell another branch of government when it was in recess.

“And now he’s doing it again with his own signature health care law,” said McConnell, who is seeking re-election next year in a state where Obama is unpopular.

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“It’s fundamentally unfair to adopt an employer mandate and an individual mandate and say ‘I’m going to enforce this against hard-working individual Americans, but the government is going to look the other way when it comes to wealthy, corporate fat cats,’ ” Lee said…

Lee, a constitutional lawyer by training, wants to unite a populist anti-government message with a process argument, saying Obama’s delaying the employer mandate is an unconstitutional abrogation of the law, which requires full implementation on Jan. 1, 2014.

“The president wants to rewrite the law without going to Congress and he doesn’t have the power to do that,” he said in a phone interview. “It really is a unilateral amendment on the part of the president of his signature legislative accomplishment.”

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Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.

This matter—the limits of executive power—has deep historical roots. During the period of royal absolutism, English monarchs asserted a right to dispense with parliamentary statutes they disliked. King James II’s use of the prerogative was a key grievance that lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The very first provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689—the most important precursor to the U.S. Constitution—declared that “the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.”…

This is not the first time Mr. Obama has suspended the operation of statutes by executive decree, but it is the most barefaced. In June of last year, for example, the administration stopped initiating deportation proceedings against some 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, lived here at least five years, and met a variety of other criteria. This was after Congress refused to enact the Dream Act, which would have allowed these individuals to stay in accordance with these conditions. Earlier in 2012, the president effectively replaced congressional requirements governing state compliance under the No Child Left Behind Act with new ones crafted by his administration…

Of all the stretches of executive power Americans have seen in the past few years, the president’s unilateral suspension of statutes may have the most disturbing long-term effects. As the Supreme Court said long ago (Kendall v. United States, 1838), allowing the president to refuse to enforce statutes passed by Congress “would be clothing the president with a power to control the legislation of congress, and paralyze the administration of justice.”

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What if Mitt Romney had won the election, and proceeded to disregard sections of Obamacare in precisely the manner President Obama is presently doing? It would go something like this:

WASHINGTON – The Romney administration faces a political and legal crisis as blowback from its controversial decision to unilaterally suspend central elements of the Affordable Care Act continues to intensify…

“President Romney is openly defying the laws of the United States that he swore an oath to faithfully execute,” said the leader of an umbrella liberal interest group that was formed to promote the Affordable Care Act. “Arbitrarily letting employers off the hook for providing health care is not just illegal, but it’s deadly for Americans who are counting that coverage.”

That umbrella advocacy group, several major national labor unions, and 14 smaller advocacy groups filed a lawsuit last week in the D.C. Circuit seeking an emergency injunction forcing the Romney administration to enforce the law. The groups are also staging a 24-7 protest in Lafayette Square across from the White House under a large banner reading: “Romney Is Not Above the Law.” A significant number of protesters are calling for the president’s impeachment over the issue.

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