Recent Supreme Court oral arguments on the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s individual mandate have liberals seriously troubled, primarily because they now have almost zero chance of forcing Dick Cheney to give back his new heart.
You see, just as the left began to tell the truth about death panels and ObamaCare, the highest court in the land took it up for argument. Starting on March 26, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a few issues having to do with the law (including the controversial and widely unpopular individual mandate).
First, the Court wrestled with the issue of whether or not a decision on the law can even be made prior to 2014 (when the rest of ObamaCare takes effect). This question stems from the Anti-Injunction Act, an 1867 law stating that the full amount of a tax must be collected before the tax can be challenged in court. How typical of the government to demand you hand over your money prior to discussing the merits of that tax.
So will this “pay now, ask questions later” law delay the demise of ObamaCare for another two years? It doesn’t look like it. The Court expressed much doubt that the AIA applied here, or that the penalty imposed upon those unwilling to participate in ObamaCare is even a tax at all. But that didn’t stop Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli (arguing on behalf of the administration), from trying to make out what ObamaCare’s proponents, including the Congress that wrote it, have called up until now a penalty as a “tax.” In the end, Justices as conservative as Scalia and as liberal as Ginsburg weren’t buying Verrilli’s attempt to delay the decision until 2014.
It is nice to know, however, how easily the Obama administration is willing to about-face on the lie that they intended ObamaCare not to be a tax.
The Supreme Court next heard arguments on the central issue of ObamaCare: the individual mandate. The mandate would require millions of Americans to purchase and retain “affordable” health insurance or face a fine (I mean a tax . . . er, fine . . . penalty?). This is a central issue for those like me who didn’t receive an ObamaCare waiver for having a business in Nancy Pelosi’s district or for being extra chummy with Obama. Basically, if you don’t own a gay bar or belong to a union, you should be very concerned about how the Court decides this case.
Verrilli argued that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause (allowing Congress to regulate interstate commerce) gives the federal government the authority to force citizens to buy a private product or face a fine. Here, the Court paused to ask Verrilli what he was smoking.
A main reason ObamaCare was forced through Congress was to provide insurance for the uninsured. But it goes further than that. Those who may or may not be able to afford insurance but choose not to are now compelled to purchase it. This is the iceberg sinking Verrilli’s argument. The commerce that Congress intends to regulate doesn’t yet exist. Justice Kennedy (who many believe has the crucial vote in the case) inquired about this early on: “Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?” Justice Scalia added, “if I’m in any market at all, my failure to purchase something in that market subjects me to regulation.”
The response to such points is that the uninsured are directly affecting the market. Freeloaders in the health services industry raise premiums for those who actually pay when they receive services from hospitals, clinics, E.R.s, etc. I think what Verrilli did here was tear up his roadmap out of delirium and begin to argue against collectivism.
Through a series of already existing mandates that make it difficult for anyone to afford good insurance and impossible for any institution to turn away those who cannot pay, the federal government has made an absolute mess of healthcare. Its solution now is to use that as an argument to pass off government-run healthcare as tangentially constitutional.
Justices Scalia, Alito and Chief Justice Roberts pressed further, asking counsel if, under this interpretation of the commerce clause, the federal government could force Americans to buy cell phones (everyone may need to call 911), burial insurance (we’re all going to die), and—garnering laughs in the court room—broccoli (which actually makes sense to Jumping Jacks Czar Michelle Obama).
Liberal Justice Steven Breyer stayed lucid just up until he tried to defend these outrageous expansions of federal power, saying, if Congress showed enough interest in them, then yes they could mandate their purchase. But at least he had enough courage to be honest.
Verrilli, the administration, and ObamaCare supporters keep trying to label the law as something special that just passes as constitutional under the Commerce Clause. But anyone can see that it’s not commerce and it’s not the regulation of commerce. It’s the regulation of inactivity, and it’s a sappy excuse for bigger government. This has nothing to do with whether or not you agree with the policy, only the constitutionality of it.
If liberals want to keep pushing their heinous policies, they’re going to have to wait for Supreme Court appointees who like hearing constitutional arguments that sound like they were taught in clown school, or else start amending the Constitution.
Though the Supremes have an excellent case for overturning ObamaCare, there is still reason to be uneasy. Justice Kennedy cautioned that this law “changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way,” but if he sees the individual mandate as non-severable from the rest of the law, he may try to find a way to let the law stand.
If the law is struck down, Obama’s first term goes down with it. If it survives, it gives conservatives plenty of ammo in the 2012 elections. Either way we must exploit this opportunity and use it to demonstrate what happens when you back policy that treads on our freedom.
Keith Fierro | California State Fullerton | Fullerton, California | @KJFierro