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Could Obama Face Felony Charge In Arizona?

AZ Gov. Jan Brewer and President Obama (Photo Courtesy The Associated Press)

The State of Arizona is, once again, taking on the Federal Government.  Before, it was on illegal immigrants and the lack of Federal involvement.  This time the fight centers around the healthcare law: Commonly called “Obamacare” or “Harrycare” (after Senator Harry Reid).

Arizona Senate bill SB1475 was introduced yesterday (Feb. 6th) by state senators Gould, Murphy, Griffin, Nelson, Shooter, & Yarbrough.  The text of the legislation raises some serious questions about who could face charges in Arizona if this bill is enacted.  The text in question is as follows:

A. THIS STATE DECLARES THAT THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (P.L. 111-148) AND THE HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2010 (P.L. 111-152) ARE NOT AUTHORIZED BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AND VIOLATE ITS TRUE MEANING AND INTENT AS GIVEN BY THE FOUNDERS AND RATIFIERS AND ARE DECLARED TO BE INVALID IN THIS STATE, SHALL NOT BE RECOGNIZED BY THIS STATE, ARE SPECIFICALLY REJECTED BY THIS SATE AND ARE CONSIDERED VOID AND OF NO EFFECT IN THIS STATE.
B. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE LEGISLATURE OF THIS STATE TO ADOPT AND ENACT ANY AND ALL MEASURES AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO PREVENT THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND THE HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2010 IN THIS STATE.
C. AN OFFICIAL, AGENT OR EMPLOYEE OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OR ANY EMPLOYEE OF A CORPORATION PROVIDING SERVICES TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT WHO ENFORCES OR ATTEMPTS TO ENFORCE AN ACT, ORDER, LAW, STATUTE, RULE OR REGULATION OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT IN VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION IS GUILTY OF A CLASS 4 FELONY.

As is evident, any federal official, agent, or employee who enforces, or attempts to enforce, the healthcare legislation in the state of Arizona will be charged with a Class 4 Felony.

The question raised by the title of this article is “Could Obama Face Felony Charge In Arizona?”.

To start, how could President Obama violate this proposed law after he signed the healthcare bill into law?  That depends on how Arizona officials define “enforcement” of the law.  If the President signed a funding bill which allocated money to enact the Heathcare legislation in the United States – Arizona included – would that be deemed as “enforcing” the law?

For sake of example, let’s say that signing a budget of the mentioned nature is deemed an act of enforcing the healthcare law.  The question remains, can Obama face a felony charge in Arizona?

The short answer is No.  The long answer is Yes.

And here is why

Article II, Section IV of the US Constitution states:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

In 1970, Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Michigan, succinctly summarized this point when he stated:

“An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

Thus, based upon the words of former President Ford, President Obama (and successors) could face Impeachment if a majority of the members of the US House of Representatives found that the President had committed a felony in Arizona, and deemed it to be a “high crime or misdemeanor”, as they could with President Ford’s statement in 1970.  The irony would be that Congress would, essentially, indict themselves for committing the same felony – as they wrote and/or passed the same bill the President signed.

The President would then face a trial in front of the US Senate.  If the Senate found the president guilty, he would be removed from office.  Next, as Impeachment does not activate the 5th Amendment’s double jeopardy clause, the ousted President would face trial in AZ State court for the felony imposed by this act.

Members of Congress would possibly open themselves up for prosecution by Arizona officials for their “Yes” votes on the bill, as well, due to the fact they are the ones who allowed the bill to reach the President’s desk.

To sum up the long answer:  Yes it is possible for the President to face charges (depending on the definition of “enforce” in this act by Arizona officials), as could Congress.

Will it ever happen?

Don’t hold your breath.

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