10/07/2013 08:49 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Republican Push Is Unconstitutional, and They Have to Know It

There is no reason for the president or the Democrats to compromise over the Affordable Care Act/defunding/default issue.

Over and above any claims made about the ACA by those trying to destroy it -- almost all of which have been found to hold no water at all -- it is not compromise. Worse, it's unconstitutional, and therefore impossible; and I have to believe the Republicans know this.

Here's why.

The ACA was passed by Congress, signed by the president, and found constitutional by the Supreme Court. It is the law.

The Constitution says Congress must take those steps necessary and proper to put laws into effect, the Constitution says the president's job is to take good care to see the laws are faithfully executed, and the president takes an oath -- written into the Constitution -- to preserve, protect, and defend it.

So Congress has a responsibility to put the ACA into effect -- meaning, among other things, to finance it -- and the president is required by the Constitution to enforce it.

Neither group is exempt from its constitutionally mandated responsibilities because it doesn't like something the government has already done -- quite the opposite. As Lincoln explained to a group from Ohio who visited him on his way to Washington in 1860, he had to preserve the Union because could not honor his oath unless the Constitution was everywhere in force and everywhere obeyed.

What this means in the current pass is that Congress may try to repeal the ACA but if it cannot -- and as it has not been able to after 30+ votes, we have to assume it cannot and will not -- it is probably not Constitutionally empowered to defund the ACA under the necessary and proper clause, and the president is not exempted from his mandate to see the laws are faithfully executed.

Looked at this way, the GOP's demands are simply not legal. And I think we can agree that at a minimum, the spectacle of lawmakers acting illegally is unappealing.

Now, either those insisting on some sort of "compromise" understand and know what they're doing, or they don't. But neither of those conditions exempt these lawmakers from obeying the law and executing their constitutionally mandated responsibilities.

Thus, what the Republicans are doing is asking the president to do the impossible for him to do, and I suspect they know it. They certainly should.

In any event, compromise along the lines the Republicans are demanding is unconstitutional -- to repeat, you can repeal a law, but not refuse to carry it out and enforce it.

They also cannot -- certainly they should not -- be trying to strap the full faith and credit of the United States, or the operations of government, to their determination to kill the ACA for whatever reason they give themselves to do so.

That course is unethical and outside the bounds of acceptable and responsible behavior by government officials, elected or otherwise. The Republicans are certainly committing suicide: But the president is under no obligation to rescue them, even if he does have a responsibility to prevent them from harming the Republic as they do so.

Whether Republicans like to hear it or not, they set this entire matter in motion. It is their show. No amount of talking is going to convince the country otherwise. You can't fool all of the people all of the time, and they don't have to like it.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?