September 23, 2013
A man holds a sign at the Tea Party Patriots 'Exempt America from Obamacare' rally on the west lawn of the Capitol on Sept. 10. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
A man holds a sign at the Tea Party Patriots ‘Exempt America from Obamacare’ rally on the west lawn of the Capitol on Sept. 10. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Conservative Republicans are so very fond of telling everyone else how no one loves the Constitution more than they do. Therefore, anyone who does anything they don’t like hates the Constitution (and by extension, America). And if you’re President Obama, your every action is a violation of our nation’s most sacred secular document. The whole thing is maddening because these very same folks are trying to thwart the Constitution’s basic tenets and take down the economy with their shenanigans over Obamacare.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.) is one of those folks. He took to the House floor on Friday to rail against the Affordable Care Act.

Today, the constitutional conservatives in the House are keeping their word to our constituents and our nation to stand true to our principles, to protect them from the most unpopular law ever passed in the history of the country — Obamacare — that intrudes on their privacy and our most sacred right as Americans to be left alone.

What got me was the phrase “constitutional conservatives.”

According to Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution, “Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it. . . .” This is how Obamacare became the law of the land. The House passed the Senate’s version of the health care bill on March 21, 2010 by a vote of 219 to 212. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by the president two days later.

Since then, the House Republican majority has voted 42 times to defund, repeal or otherwise hobble Obamacare. Each time, the effort dies in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The most recent vote took place on Friday in a cat-and-mouse game that will lead to a government shutdown (or worse, a first-in-the-history-of-the-republic default) if the insanity of the Republican Party isn’t cured.

In between all those votes, the Supreme Court and the American people had their say.

“Constitutional conservatives” were certain that the guardians of the Constitution — the Supreme Court — would strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional. After all, the high court’s ability to invalidate a law that runs afoul of the Constitution (read, judicial review) was established in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. And yet, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual-mandate provision of Obamacare (its core provision) in a June 28, 2012 ruling.

Once the court spoke, all eyes focused on the 2012 presidential election. As Ezra Klein and Jonathan Chait pointed out at the time, if the GOP were to win the White House and take the majority in the Senate, Obamacare would be toast. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made repeal of the health-care law a central part of his campaign. “Our mission is clear: if we want to get rid of Obamacare, we are going to have to replace President Obama,” Romney said the day of the court ruling. “That is my mission. That is our work. And I’m asking the American people to join me.” And yet, voters reelected Obama with a decisive victory over Romney.

The president put what “constitutional conservatives” are doing with the debt ceiling and Obamacare in perspective when he asked listeners at his Business Roundtable speech last week to “flip the script.”

[I]magine a situation in which a Democratic Speaker said to a Republican President, I’m not going to increase the debt ceiling unless you increase corporate taxes by 20 percent. And if you don’t do it, we’ll default on the debt and cause a worldwide financial crisis.  Even though that Democratic Speaker didn’t have the votes to force through that particular piece of legislation, they would simply say, we will blow the whole thing up unless you do what I want. That can’t be a recipe for government.

It’s not. That “constitutional conservatives” can’t accept that they have lost the argument, that elections have consequences is a recipe for disaster.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.