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bribed with a $3 bill

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 22, 2010

In order to persuade reluctant Democrats to endorse his favored health-care reform bill, President Obama promised to issue an executive order stipulating that the legislation does not allow for funding of abortion. Readers who are not familiar with the American form of government might wonder how much authority such a presidential order would have. 

Readers who are familiar with the American form of government know that such an executive order would have no binding force whatsoever. 

Under the terms of the US Constitution-- a document with which most legislators are evidently unfamiliar-- Congress has the power to legislate. The President does not. If the legislation passed by Congress allows for funding of abortion, and the President declines to provide that funding, then he is violating the terms of the legislation. Sooner or later someone will challenge the presidential order in court, and the court will rule that the intent of Congress takes preference. 

So what was the intent of Congress in passing this legislation? Here's a hint: In order to convince a few recalcitrant Democrats that the bill didn't provide for abortion funding, President Obama was obliged to promise this executive order. Clearly that promise was not contained in the legislation itself. 

If the legislation itself blocked abortion funding, the presidential promise would have been meaningless and unnecessary. As things stand, the promise was still meaningless-- but apparently necessary, to give venal legislators an excuse for deserting their own promises.  

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: laurieolsen3829 - Mar. 24, 2010 4:44 PM ET USA

    10 There is already enough division in the pro-life movement without faithful Catholics – and I think Stupak is one – turning on one another. I'll end it there.

  • Posted by: laurieolsen3829 - Mar. 24, 2010 4:41 PM ET USA

    8 The EO has more permanence than the Hyde Amendment, which has to be renewed every year. The EO does not. 9 The door is open for Stupak and friends to pursue turning the EO into statute WHEN they can get the necessary votes in the Senate … which is not possible with THIS Senate.

  • Posted by: laurieolsen3829 - Mar. 24, 2010 4:14 PM ET USA

    7 Stupak got Obama - the most pro-abortion president in US history - to sign a pro-life EO in order to get the healthcare bill he wanted. WOW. Pray the irony is not lost on this president.

  • Posted by: laurieolsen3829 - Mar. 24, 2010 4:03 PM ET USA

    1 Bush’s EO DID protect embryonic human life. 2 Stupak did NOT know the final vote #. 3 Imagine if the bill passed w/o the EO. Cld U live knowing U saw the danger to life & refused the EO? 4 He did not betray us. He said he wanted to see it pass IF the sanctity of life were preserved. He is a D not a closet R. 5 Passage makes it harder to unseat Obama, but it does NOT mean Stupak is weak on life or a bad Catholic. 6. Plnnd Prnthd wld love us to think the EO is worthless & get rid of Stupak.

  • Posted by: rdennehy8049 - Mar. 24, 2010 5:26 AM ET USA

    It is surprising that "our" senators and congressmen do not know what the Constitution says....or is it? This is something else I think we can blame on our education system.Once they, the goverment, took God out of the classroom America started down the road as a secular, socialist nation. It is not too late to change though. The power of prayer and ballots can change things.

  • Posted by: geardoid - Mar. 24, 2010 2:17 AM ET USA

    The reason we can't trust a politician .. specifically a president who brokered his omnibus health bill with a crocodile smile to pro-life concerns, is that the governing spirit is the spirit of the World. This is the spirit from which we have to pray that politicians be delivered. The same spirit affects representatives on the left or the right, as seen in today's scarily narrow defeat of a federal bill in Canada which would have enshrined abortion as part of exported maternal health support.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 23, 2010 8:16 PM ET USA

    One can be as angry as one wishes to be with Stupak, but I would suggest that part of that anger is misdirected. How many individuals do we have in the House and the Senate who were baptized Catholic, and out of that group, how many have voted for the bill? Some will never get it; but given the history of bishops unwilling to speak plainly and follow Canon law, why should we presume the rest would get it? The chickens of the last 40 years are coming home to roost. We are surprised and angry?

  • Posted by: Lahrye - Mar. 23, 2010 7:05 PM ET USA

    What is the significance of the President's word? I became informed by your article.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Mar. 23, 2010 7:55 AM ET USA

    Never trust a politician. Stupak proved to be untrustworthy in his 'pro life' position. Truth is that he is on record saying that all he wanted was a vote on the pro-life language, then he would vote for the health care bill abortion language or not. Never put your trust in a politician.