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Can Obama Change Obamacare Without Congress’ OK?

A federal judge today will hear arguments in a lawsuit that argues the Obama administration violated the Constitution when it changed portions of the new national health care law without Congress’ approval. It’s the first ever lawsuit by the full House of Representatives against a sitting president.

Only 22% of Likely U.S. Voters told Rasmussen Reports last summer when the lawsuit was filed that the president should be able to change a law passed by Congress if he thinks the change will make the law work better. Sixty-three percent (63%) said any changes in a law should be approved first by Congress.

But voters were evenly divided when asked if they favored or opposed the House’s decision to sue the president to stop some of his executive actions on the grounds that they exceed the powers given him by the Constitution.

Perhaps that was partly because only 30% thought it was even somewhat likely that the lawsuit would stop the president from taking executive actions on initiatives he proposed that Congress refused to go along with.

Even at that time, on the basis of the executive actions he had already taken, 44% of voters felt the president has been less faithful to the U.S. Constitution than most other presidents Just half as many (22%) said he has been more faithful to the Constitution than most of his predecessors, while 30% said he has followed the Constitution about the same as other presidents have.

Since then, Obama has announced that he is protecting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation, another executive action that critics, primarily Republicans, charge is unconstitutional. They contend the president is choosing not to enforce a law passed by Congress, while he insists he has that prerogative because Congress refuses to fix a broken immigration system.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters think the federal government should only do what the president and Congress agree on when it comes to immigration, but 33% say the president should take action alone if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed.

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Most voters have consistently said that when it comes to dealing with issues the president considers important to the nation, the government should only do what he and Congress agree on. Sixty-nine percent (69%) think any changes a president wants to make in a law should be approved first by Congress.

Not surprisingly, Democrats are much more willing to let Obama act alone than Republicans and unaffiliated voters are. It’s not unreasonable to assume, however, that Democrats and Republicans would reverse their positions if a GOP president was in office.

But it’s perhaps more alarming to note that one-in-four of all voters think the president should even have the right to ignore federal court rulings if they are standing in the way of actions he feels are important for the country.

In that same survey, 31% say it is more important for government to operate efficiently than it is to preserve our constitutional system of checks and balances. Nearly twice as many (59%) place more importance on maintaining checks and balances.

The system of checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government was designed by the Founding Fathers to assure that a consensus was achieved before national legislation could be implemented, but presidents of both parties have complained over the years about the challenges of getting things done in such a system.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans think the Constitution should be left alone. Thirty-three percent (33%) believe minor changes are needed in the nation's foundational document. Four percent (4%) feel major changes are necessary, while two percent (2%) think the United States should scrap the Constitution completely and start over.

Unrelated to today’s federal court hearing, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the next month on a lawsuit challenging the subsidies provided for some Americans to purchase health insurance under the new health care law. It will be a serious setback for the law if the court upholds the challenge.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters believe implementation of the health care law should be put on hold until all legal challenges of it are exhausted. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree, while 14% are not sure.

Most voters still don’t like the health care law and want to make major changes to it or dump it completely.

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