Friday, October 8, 2010


Clause and Effect

This just in: Congress is assuming control of all your personal economic decisions. Or so says Judge George Steeh, who yesterday became the first man ever to rule on the constitutionality of the new health care law. The suit, brought by our friends at the Thomas More Law Center, argued that it's an abuse of power for Congress to order Americans to buy health insurance. Judge Steeh disagreed, insisting (in his 20-page opinion) that the federal government has a "right" to force citizens to buy products whether they want them or not. Of course, there's nothing in the Constitution to support that argument. Nowhere does it state that citizens can be required by an act of Congress to purchase anything--including insurance policies. But that didn't matter to Judge Steeh, who also struck down a challenge over the financial penalty imposed on people who don't buy insurance. "The minimum coverage provision... is a reasonable means of effectuating Congress's goal," he wrote.
It all boils down to a very complicated debate over the U.S. Commerce Clause and whether it gives the government the power to bar "commercial non-activity." The Obama administration is arguing that inactivity (i.e. not buying insurance) is a form of interstate commerce. Think about that for a second. The government is suggesting that "doing nothing" is something to regulate. How ridiculous is that? To expand its power, Washington is literally making something out of nothing. Thomas More's Rob Muise talked about where this twisted logic could lead. "If Congress has authority to regulate non-activity then it has the ability to regulate anything," he said. "Congress can tell you to exercise three times a week, to take certain vitamins, to refrain from eating certain foods because, at some point, costs are going to be incurred to the health care market. I find that very troubling when we have a federal government that's supposed to be of limited, enumerated powers." Troubling enough, Muise said, that his organization plans to appeal.
Meanwhile, the health care law is already under fire in two other courts. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is fighting to overturn ObamaCare in Richmond's federal district court while his Florida counterpart, Bill McCollum, is leading 20 other states into a massive court battle in Pensacola. Yesterday's decision won't interfere with either of those challenges. Eventually, the law will make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And when it does, let's hope it appeals to the justices' better judgment.

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