GOP senators to force vote on constitutionality of health care reform bill
I just received a release from someone in South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s office. Apparently, he and Nevada Sen. John Ensign plan to force a Senate vote on the constitutionality of the Democrats’ health care reform legislation.
You know me — I’m a big fan of DeMint, and of any lawmaker who looks at a piece of legislation regardless of where it originates and asks, before anything else: “Where, exactly, in the Constitution does the federal government have the authority to do this?” It’s a responsible and patriotic mentality we need more and more right now, and it’s an attitude we’ll need just the same–if not more so–once the GOP has retaken the majority.
It came as no surprise to see DeMint’s name attached to this effort. That, in my opinion, says more about Jim DeMint than any single vote or speech or interview or appearance. Anyway, I’ve said enough — here’s the press release:
December 22, 2009 – WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and John Ensign (R-Nevada), raised a Constitutional Point of Order on the Senate floor against the Democrat health care takeover bill on behalf of the Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators. The Senate will vote tomorrow on the bill’s constitutionality.
“I am incredibly concerned that the Democrats’ proposed individual mandate provision takes away too much freedom and choice from Americans across the country,” said Senator Ensign. “As an American, I felt the obligation to stand up for the individual freedom of every citizen to make their own decision on this issue. I don’t believe Congress has the legal authority to force this mandate on its citizens.”
“Forcing every American to purchase a product is absolutely inconsistent with our Constitution and the freedoms our Founding Fathers hoped to protect,” said Senator DeMint. “This is not at all like car insurance, you can choose not to drive but Americans will have no choice whether to buy government-approved insurance. This is nothing more than a bailout and takeover of insurance companies. We’re forcing Americans to buy insurance under penalty of law and then Washington bureaucrats will then dictate what these companies can sell to Americans. This is not liberty, it is tyranny of good intentions by elites in Washington who think they can plan our lives better than we can.”
Americans who fail to buy health insurance, according to the Democrats’ bill, would be subject to financial penalties. The senators believe the bill is unconstitutional because the insurance mandate is not authorized by any of the limited enumerated powers granted to the federal government. The individual mandate also likely violates the “takings” clause of the 5th Amendment.
The Democrats’ healthcare reform bill requires Americans to buy health insurance “whether or not they ever visit a doctor, get a prescription or have an operation.” If an American chooses not to buy health insurance coverage, they will face rapidly increasing taxes that will rise to $750 or 2% of their taxable income, whichever is greater.
The Congressional Budget Office once stated “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”
A legal study by scholars at the nonpartisan Heritage Foundation concluded: “An individual mandate to enter into a contract with or buy a particular product from a private party, with tax penalties to enforce it, is unprecedented– not just in scope but in kind–and unconstitutional as a matter of first principles and under any reasonable reading of judicial precedents.”
Obviously, it’s not going to pass. But this is exactly what I was talking about when I came up with the Doctrine of Constructive Obstructionism. It’s one thing to say “no” and maintain that stance, but it’s more effective to say “no,” to offer alternatives, to maintain that position of “no,” and consequently to force the opposition to own whatever it is they’re selling.
In this case, Jim DeMint and John Ensign are putting the Democrats in the place where they will directly countermand the very same United States Constitution which they have sworn to uphold. They will either have to argue that forcing Americans to carry health insurance or face fines and imprisonment is somehow constitutional–good luck–or they will have to agree that the measure runs afoul of the Constitution, and yet support it anyway.
This is exactly the kind of thing we need to see from the Republican Party. On one side, it’s a great political move, as it goes a long way to show that the GOP can be a political vehicle for constitutional conservatives. More importantly, however, it’s the right thing to do — and that’s something we don’t see a whole lot of on Capitol Hill.
As you call your own senators about health care reform, put a call in or send an e-mail to the offices of Jim DeMint and John Ensign. Sticking up for the Constitution is more than deserving of a “thank you.”