The issue of Individual Mandate is important to our work in Congress.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) includes what is called an “individual responsibility requirement” or mandate that all persons buy health insurance from a private company or face a financial penalty. The individual mandate – which serves as the foundation for the health care law – takes government interference in everyday life to a striking and unprecedented level. It has already been found unconstitutional by two U.S. District Court judges and is likely to be found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. At its core, Obamacare is a violation of the Constitution of the United States.
The Commerce Clause explicitly grants Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce. But the Commerce Clause was not designed to grant Congress limitless regulatory power. The purpose of this clause was to create a national free trade zone that would abolish the ability of states to protect their local industries through interstate protectionism. The Commerce Clause, quite simply, regulated or “made regular” interstate commerce. Furthermore, “commerce,” as understood by our Founders, was defined as trade, and the intercourse, traffic, or exchange of goods. This definition presumes that at least two parties are voluntarily engaging into a commercial transaction.
However, proponents of Obamacare prefer to rely on the premise that the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to regulate anything that has a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce. The substantial effects doctrine arose from a New Deal era Supreme Court case, U.S. v. South-Eastern Underwriters, in which the Court for the first time applied the Necessary and Proper Clause to grant Congress the power to regulate certain economic activities that were neither interstate nor commerce, but that were deemed to have substantial effect on interstate commerce. This was a blatant abandonment of the Founders’ vision.
Yet, Obamacare supporters cite the substantial effects doctrine as the justification for the individual mandate, arguing that refusing to purchase health insurance has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. What this interpretation fails to comprehend, however, is that individuals have the right to refuse to engage in commerce. Under their logic, individual decisions to not purchase a car or a home would constitute an economic activity. Therefore, Obamacare converts economic inactivity into a commercial transaction subject to regulation. The Founding Generation which created a republican government of limited powers could not have written such Orwellian powers into the Constitution.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “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.” So the question remains, where does government power end? As Judge Roger Vinson eloquently put it in his decision in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services:
“If [the individual mandate is upheld] it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.”
Simply put, if the individual mandate is upheld, there is virtually no limit on Washington’s power to micromanage the lives of American citizens. It sets a dangerous precedent and is unconstitutional. The individual mandate must be repealed.