Does ObamaCare Trample The Constitution?

Does ObamaCare Trample The Constitution?


Is ObamaCare working against this document?

As far as President Obama and most Democrats believe, the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is settled law. The PPACA is sometimes referred as ObamaCare and contains an individual mandate requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face an annual tax penalty.

Commerce Clause

With its individual mandate, the health care law is being challenged as 14 state attorney generals claim that it is overreaching and a clear expansion of federal powers. Democrats contend that the law is justified under the Commerce Clause in that health insurance and health care are a type of interstate commerce. Furthermore, they believe that the law is set up as a tax which, according to the 16th Amendment, is constitutional:

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

Enumerated Powers

Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has certain enumerated or specific powers granted to it. But those powers are limited with the Bill of Rights affirming the extent of those powers. Indeed, the first ten amendments to the constitution comprise what is known as the “Bill of Rights” agreed upon by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

What are the chances that challenges to ObamaCare will succeed? That depends on who you are asking with liberals and conservatives having decidedly different views on the matter.

Contrasting Viewpoints

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board gave their glowing endorsement of the new law criticizing the attorney generals who “…will use scarce state dollars to wage a long-shot court battle against the reforms.” The board went on to add, “Thoughtful people in public office and the medical community, however, are already at work on making health care reform a success.”

Judicial analyst Andrew P. Napolitano, speaking to Newsmax’s David A. Patten, says that the attorney generals “have a pretty strong case” and believes that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in their favor. Napolitano asserts that Congress is attempting to regulate state governments through this legislation.

Libertarian Thoughts

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank headquartered in our nation’s capital, is of the opinion that the state attorney generals do have a case to make. The institute recognizes that today’s interpretation of constitutional law is far removed from what the founding fathers espoused, but they say that there are three arguments to make which can help their cause:

  1. Under the Constitution, as properly interpreted, Congress has no power to enact such a plan.
  2. The plan conscripts state governments into carrying out and paying for federal mandates.
  3. The individual mandate amounts to an unlawful capitation or direct tax.

Cato supposes that under today’s interpretation the first argument won’t win, while the second argument has a chance of succeeding. Most promising is the third argument which might convince the Supreme Court to throw out the new law.

Should the Supreme Court uphold ObamaCare, the U.S. Congress could still knock it down by defunding it. Given the current congressional make up, that won’t happen, but if voters choose conservatives over liberals this fall, then it is game on.

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About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".