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Why I Like the Healthcare Ruling

Postmillennialism —  Leave a comment

American Missive — The Supreme Court has now handed down its long awaited and highly anticipated ruling on the Healthcare Law known as Obamacare. I’ve been following this process closely and reading as much about it as I can. Leading up to the ruling there were many on the left who fully expected the court to rule against the law. And in a form of preemption, these individuals began to lay the ground work for dismissing the ruling and discrediting the court. I do not believe the court was blind and deaf to this strategy as it was put forward by leading Democrat Party members. In the end, though, the court upheld the law. Even though I am not a fan of this law, I really do like this ruling.

Prior to the ruling being issued the majority of the discussion on both the left and the right side of the political spectrum the debate centered on the argument of the Commerce Clause. Does Congress have the ability to regulate inactivity? Many leading scholars prior to the ruling argued that in fact Congress does have this power to regulate based on the Commerce Clause because Health Care is a unique market. Such an argument would have expanded Federal Power to unlimited levels. Yesterday Chief Justice Roberts handed down a ruling that did two things. First, it utterly destroyed the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause arguments and severely restricted them going forward. In doing so the Chief Justice had the majority of liberal Justices signing on to that argument.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Pp. 16–30.

(a) The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce.” Art. I, §8, cl. 3 (emphasis added). The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court’s precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court’s cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe the power as reaching “activity.” E.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 560. The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce.

Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.” Pp. 16–27.

(b) Nor can the individual mandate be sustained under the Necessary and Proper Clause as an integral part of the Affordable Care Act’s other reforms. Each of this Court’s prior cases upholding laws under that Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power. E.g., United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. ___. The individual mandate, by contrast, vests Congress with the extraordinary ability to create the necessary predicate to the exercise of an enumerated power and draw within its regulatory scope those who would otherwise be outside of it. Even if the individual mandate is “necessary” to the Affordable Care Act’s other reforms, such an expansion of federal power is not a “proper” means for making those reforms effective. Pp. 27–30.

And second, the Court found that State Sovereignty was not properly maintained in the Medicaid portion of the bill. In so doing the Chief Justice severely curtailed, and may have finally put an end to, coercive federal bills. Previously the federal government had utilized existing federal money to coerce states to enact laws. For instance the federal government threatened to withhold money for sustaining federal roads within a state which did not increase its drinking age to 21. With this ruling, such options are now ended for Congress.

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