Exceeding Commerce Clause PowersDec 16, 2010
Although it is the first of many court decisions he faces, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli this week became the first person to successfully challenge President Obama's federal health insurance scheme. U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled a key component of the plan — the "individual mandate" — unconstitutional. In his opinion, Judge Hudson concluded:
Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter a stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market. In doing so, enactment of the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I.
He added that the individual mandate "is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the U.S. Constitution." That letter meaning this: "Regulate" during the days of the constitution's adoption meant, "to make regular." Far from taking over entire industries, the federal government instead was to ensure that states didn't discriminate against businesses from one state to the advantage of one from another.
The Obama administration argued that the constitution's Commerce Clause gives the government broad authority to order Americans to purchase health insurance because not doing so adversely affects commerce. Of course, this unprecedented attempt to force Americans to purchase a product was predicated on labeling inactivity (not buying insurance) "interstate commerce." Stranger than fiction, we know.
While the Obama administration will appeal Monday's decision to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Attorney General Cuccinelli would prefer an expedited appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was in talks with the Department of Justice about a joint motion to that affect, but it now appears DOJ wants no part of it (better to delay until more and more parts of the law go into affect). However, Mr. Cuccinelli told Fox New Channel's Greta Van Susteren Monday night he may go forward on that by himself and also may appeal Judge Hudson's refusal to place an injunction on the health care law (see video). He has 30 days from last Monday to make that appeal. Regardless of how or when, ultimately Obamacare's fate will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
While there are dozens of reasons to oppose Obamacare (see Obamacare411), the provision that requires otherwise free Americans to purchase health insurance or face penalties is the most egregious — but it is also the financial linchpin of the entire law. Without the mandate, much of the rest of the law is untenable.
Earlier this year, The Family Foundation supported the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, the basis for the Commonwealth's lawsuit against the federal government. It protects Virginia citizens from being compelled to buy insurance against their will. We applaud the Attorney General and his staff for their commitment to protecting the freedom of Virginians. For a great perspective on the hearing and Judge Hudson's ruling, view Mr. Cuccinelli's post-decision news conference (click here). We are the only news or Internet site that recorded and posted the entire news conference.