Luckily, that book was not required reading in my constitutional law classes. Had it been, I strongly suspect that I would have failed the Florida bar exam “with flying colors”.
Representative Steny Hoyer (D. Md.) was recently asked a series of questions by CNSNews about the constitutionality of the proposed mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a tax. His answers are more than a little revealing, particularly coming from a graduate of Georgetown Law School.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the individual health insurance mandates included in every health reform bill, which require Americans to have insurance, were “like paying taxes.” He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”
Well, let’s see. The only place in the Constitution where the phrase “general welfare” can be found as relates to Congressional power is Article I, Section 8. That section provides that,
Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes…to provide for the…general welfare.
Under this section, Congress had the power to say, lay a and collect a tax on wages to pay for Social Security or Medicare as they are taxes to provide for the general welfare. And, besides, in theory at least, with Social Security and Medicare you are getting your own money back when you start to collect the benefits. But the mandatory purchase of insurance is an entirely different matter, unless we rewrite the Constitution to say,
Congress shall have power to mandate the purchase of goods and services [in this case, insurance] to provide for the general welfare.
The best example I can give here is, under Rep. Hoyer’s version of the Constitution, Congress would have the power to mandate that all Americans purchase a membership in a health club, as that will provide for the general welfare because people will become healthier. Can anyone seriously contend that Congress has that power?
When addressing this issue in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office reported to Congress,
“the individual mandate [is] an unprecedented form of federal action.” This is because “the government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”
But, Rep. Hoyer’s arrogance is even more frightening than his lack of knowledge of the Constitution. When asked by CNSNews, under your theory, what can’t Congress do, he responded,
“I’m sure the [Supreme] Court will find a limit”
In other words, according to Rep. Hoyer, we in Congress will do anything we want to do, and we’ll let the Supreme Court sort it out. That attitude gives brand new meaning to the word “arrogance”.
But, Rep. Hoyer is not alone in this regard. Sen. Patrick Leahey (D. Vt.), curiously also a Georgetown law grad, shares a similar view. This is courtesy of HotAir.
Given the above, here is my rewrite of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution:
Congress shall have power to set speed limits, and only speed limits.