HEALTH CARE REFORM: Signed, Sealed, Delivered



TALKING POINTS MEMO: Now that President Obama has signed health-care reform into law, opponents of the bill are pinning their hopes of stopping it on a last-ditch legal strategy. A group of 13 state attorneys general has filed suit (pdf), arguing that the law is unconstitutional. The bid seems far-fetched at first. But the Roberts Court has recently shown a willingness to strike down landmark legislation — charges of judicial activism be damned. So, given the stakes, it’s worth asking: Could health-care reform have made it through the congressional gauntlet, only to end up dying in the courts? […] The stronger argument in the arsenal of the AGs — many of whom happen to be running for governor — relates to the Commerce Clause, the section of the Constitution that empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce. The AGs focus on the provision of the bill that requires almost all Americans to obtain health insurance. They argue that imposing a penalty on people merely for declining to buy insurance is outside the scope of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. “For the federal government to be telling people that they must buy health insurance, or they must buy anything at all, is not one of the powers that is give to the federal government by the Constitution,” McMaster declared on Fox yesterday. “Nowhere does it say that the federal government can require a private citizen to go out and buy health insurance or anything else. It’s not a part of the Commerce Clause power.” This argument isn’t, as some reform supporters may wish to see it, merely a bizarre and desperate concoction of the far-right wing — akin, for instance, to the pseudo-legal arguments advanced by “Constitutionalists” for why Obama’s presidency is illegitimate. Over the last six months, it’s been embraced by several respected conservative legal scholars. And more importantly, an emerging jurisprudence from the conservative court does show a willingness to limit the scope of the Commerce Clause. MORE

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