Employer Mandate Under the Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 9, 2014
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. I thank my friend from South Carolina. I appreciate his making this time available.

Mr. Speaker, truth be told, this is a leadership hour, so it tends to be Republicans down on the floor when it is a Republican leadership hour, and it tends to be Democrats down on the floor when it is a Democrat leadership hour, but as my friend Mr. Stewart said so well: this is not a Republican problem. This is not a President Barack Obama problem. This is a ``we, the people'' problem.

The concern is not that it is President Barack Obama who is saying the Affordable Care Act doesn't have to be enforced. The concern is that any President could say that any law doesn't have to be enforced. Thomas Jefferson said you are not likely to lose your freedoms through rebellion; you are likely to lose them little by little by little by little. That is why we all have to stand up together.

Mr. Rice is a freshman from South Carolina. I have only been here for two terms myself. I think about some of the giants of this institution, not just of the House but of the Senate as well. I think about one of my favorite Democratic Senators, Robert Byrd from West Virginia--a champion of article I of the Constitution. He was a Democrat second; he was an American first, defending the Constitution against Presidents, Republican and Democrat, who would take the people's power from Capitol Hill and take it down to the executive branch.

So I want to ask you now--and it may sound frivolous--if we had President Mitt Romney in the White House today and if Mitt Romney were deciding the Affordable Care Act did not need to be enforced, would you still be here on the floor, asking that Congress go to court to reclaim congressional powers? I ask my friend.

Mr. RICE of South Carolina. As you said, Representative Woodall, I am an American first and a Republican second, and if the President usurps the Constitution, I will call him to task.

Mr. WOODALL. I confess to you that I went on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee--as all of my colleagues know, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is responsible for doing all of the oversight over the executive branch--because I was certain Mitt Romney was going to win. I said, for far too long, power has been leaving the people's hands on Capitol Hill, gravitating down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, and we in a Republican House will be able to do oversight over a Republican President and show the American people it is not about Republicans and Democrats; it is about article I and article II and about following the process, following the law, following the Constitution. It matters. It doesn't matter when times are good. It matters when things get dicey, when you begin to lose those freedoms little by little.

I want to ask my friend from South Carolina, because we went through this with recess appointments, whether or not there was the ability for the President to appoint folks of his choosing to various positions around the city. And what I read that D.C. court opinion to say is what President Obama has done is absolutely outrageous. It cannot possibly stand.

But what Congress allowed President Bush to do and President Clinton to do and President Bush before him to do and President Reagan before him to do, that was also unconstitutional; and Congress has to step up for the powers of the Constitution entrusted in us.

Is this your understanding?

Mr. RICE of South Carolina. Representative Woodall, that is exactly what this resolution is intended to do. It is intended for Congress to take action to enforce the Constitution.

Representative Woodall, do you hear from your constituents back home when you speak to them that the President is breaking the law, and why don't you do something about that?

I do all the time. I think that is a result of the erosion of Congress' power--exactly what you are talking about.

Mr. WOODALL. We should absolutely have arguments on this floor about how much money should be spent on this program versus that program, whether or not we should authorize a new issue or do away with an old issue. Those are those things that divide us.

But we should be united, Republican, Democrat, House and Senate, over these constitutional issues of where does the people's power reside. Because if leaders like you, in the absence of Senator Byrd from West Virginia, in the absence of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in the absence of some of those greats who formerly preserved the people's power, I don't know how it gets preserved.

I am certain that you face slings and arrows from folks thinking this is some sort of partisan stunt: you just don't like this President; you just have sour grapes over the last election.

I have gotten to know you well over your very short time in Congress. It is so valuable to me that you put your responsibilities as an American first--far above your responsibilities as a Republican--and that despite those slings and arrows, the Constitution comes first. It may not seem like we need the Constitution to protect us each and every day; but when we wake up and realize it is not there, it is going to be too late.

I hope this is something that spreads in a bipartisan way and in a bicameral way. We have preserved this Republic, this greatest form of government the world has ever known, only because folks have stood up when others did not see that necessity.

We need this. There is the necessity today, and I am grateful to you for your leadership.