"Congress has crossed a fundamental constitutional line."
As the nation awaits one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of our time, efforts to sway the decision toward upholding ObamaCare are not in short supply. Some have the thin veneer of news articles; others carry the weight of admonition by the President himself. One can only conclude that such efforts are based on a sober assessment that overturning at least one linchpin of the law is a very real possibility.
The editors of this newsletter recall vividly how the efforts of Messers Rivkin and Casey to call attention to the unconstitutionality of the 2010 healthcare law were met with derision by professors, legislators, and, unsurprisingly, reporters and news “analysts.” The hearty laughs and chuckles have long since ceased.
Lest readers believe that the legal argument against ObamaCare is grounded in political ideology, the editors of this newsletter present excerpts from articles penned by Rivkin or Casey to summarize the 26 states’ case against the federal government and to emphasize what’s at stake for the nation. —Editors
ObamaCare mandates that every American, with a few narrow exceptions, have a congressionally defined minimum level of health-insurance coverage. Noncompliance brings a substantial monetary penalty.
- The ultimate purpose of this "individual mandate" is to force young and healthy middle-class workers to subsidize those who need more coverage.
- Congress could have achieved this wealth transfer in perfectly constitutional ways. It could simply have imposed new taxes to pay for a national health system. But that would have come with a huge political price tag that neither Congress nor the president was prepared to pay.
Instead, Congress adopted the individual mandate, invoking its power to regulate interstate commerce. The uninsured, it reasoned, still use health services (for which some do not pay) and therefore have an impact on commerce, which Congress can regulate.
Congress's reliance on the Commerce Clause to support the individual mandate was politically expedient, but constitutionally deficient. Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce is broad but not limitless.
Congress has crossed a fundamental constitutional line. Neither the fact that every individual has some discernible impact on the economy, nor that virtually everyone will at some point in time use healthcare services, is a sufficient basis for federal regulation.
Nowhere in the Constitution can we find a provision to support the notion that “the ends justify the means.”
At stake are the Constitution's structural guarantees of individual liberty, which limit governmental power and ensure political accountability by dividing that power between federal and state authorities.
Upholding ObamaCare would destroy this dual-sovereignty system, the most distinctive feature of American constitutionalism.
The arguments advanced by ObamaCare's defenders are flawed because they admit no judicially enforceable limiting principle marking the outer bounds of federal authority.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are lawyers who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. They represented the 26 states in their challenge to ObamaCare before the trial and appellate courts.
The contents of this article include excerpts from an article that appeared March 21, 2012, with the headline: The Supreme Court Weighs ObamaCare.