Obama Takes on the Supreme Court
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of President Obama’s administration has been his plans to nationalize healthcare. At the heart of the controversy over ‘Obamacare’ has been the individual mandate which requires all Americans to buy insurance, and threatens to fine those who don’t.
The reason this has been controversial is because the 10th Amendment of the American constitution specifies that the federal government can only act in areas where the Constitution has granted it authority to do so. Because the enumerated powers given to the national government by the constitution do not include the authority to fine people for not purchasing healthcare, many constitutional scholars have argued that the individual mandate in Obama’s healthcare plans is unconstitutional.
Interestingly, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by CNSNews.com “where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?” she simply dismissed the question by saying: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
Later Pelosi’s press secretary responded that the federal government derives the authority to mandate that people purchase health insurance from a clause in the constitution which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. This was a reference to section 8 of the constitution which reads “The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes…” That’s it. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about forcing people to buy health insurance.
In order for the individual mandate to fall under the Commerce clause, it has to first be established that insurance contracts are a species of ‘commerce.’ Even if that is the case, it’s a stretch. Moreover, since Obamacare will fine those who do not purchase insurance, it extends federal jurisdiction not just to economic activity, but to economic inactivity. By simply being alive and doing nothing, a person comes under the rubric of federal control and can be penalized for not buying health insurance. This principle, once admitted, allows for all manner of future government control of private life.
To determine whether Obamacare is constitutional, the Supreme Court has been weighing the issue. We will not have a decision until June, but whatever they decide will have huge ramifications for Obama’s re-election campaign.
The founders of America conceived the Supreme Court as a mechanism for keeping Congress accountable to the Constitution. If Congress passes a law that violates the constitution, the Supreme Court can strike it down. The Supreme Court forms an indispensable part of the checks and balances that lie at the heart of the American system.
Precisely because of this, President Obama sent shockwaves through America on 2nd of April when he claimed that it would be illegitimate for the Supreme Court to rule that his Healthcare law is unconstitutional. He said that because the law was “passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress”
Obama went on to warn against “an unelected group of people” overturning “a duly constituted and passed law.” He commented: “Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
In reality, however, the Supreme Court has never had a duty to approve laws merely because they were passed by a democratically elected congress. In fact, the Supreme Court Justices serve lifetime terms and are unelected in order to insulate them against public opinion and ensure that they remain loyal to the constitution. Why, in the case of Obamacare, does the President think the Court has an obligation to uphold a law merely because it has already passed Congress? Such reasoning destroys the very purpose for which the Supreme Court exists.
Throughout the history of America the Supreme Court has had to overturn many laws that they deemed were unconstitutional. That’s what the Supreme Court is there for. Why, in the case of Obamacare, does the President think the Court has an obligation to uphold it merely because it has already passed Congress?
Does President Obama even understand what the purpose of the Supreme Court is? In light of his recent comments, it would appear he does not.