[See update at end!]
Senator Patrick Leahy (D, Vt) can’t find a Constitutional source for Congress’ authority to mandate that every American buy insurance, but he doesn’t really care…because, ‘no one questions our authority’. Wow, I guess those back woods of Vermont are isolated, in fact, the last time I was there, it was so cold that I saw a Congress-critter (Leahy?) walking down the street and he had his hands in his own pockets! Nah, not Leahy. 🙄
Here is part of the transcript of the interview:
CNSNews.com: “Where, in your opinion, does the Constitution give specific authority for Congress to give an individual mandate for health insurance?”
Sen. Leahy: “We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there is no authority?”
CNSNews.com: “I’m asking–“
Sen. Leahy: “Why would you say there is no authority? I mean, there’s no question there’s authority. Nobody questions that.”
Leahy compared the mandate to the government’s ability to set speed limits on interstate highways–before turning and walking away.
CNSNews.com: “But where, I mean, which–”
Sen. Leahy: “Where do we have the authority to set speed limits on an interstate highway?
CNSNews.com: “The states do that.”
Sen. Leahy: “No. The federal government does that on federal highways.”
Wrong, Senator Leahy.
Prior to 1995, the federal government mandated a speed limit of 55 miles an hour on all four-lane highways. The limit was repealed in 1995 and the authority to set speed limits reverted back to the states.
Technically, the law that established the 55 mile-an-hour limit–the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974–withheld federal highway funds from states that did not comply with it. The law rested on the Commerce Clause, which give Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce, and Congress’ authority to dole out federal tax revenue. Someone who does not buy health insurance, critics have argued, is not by that omission engaged in interstate commerce and thus there is no act of interstate commerce for Congress to regulate in this situation.
Article I Tyranny, Revisited
But instead of ‘making regular’ commerce between the states, Congress has ursurped the clause itself as an excuse to regulate the behavior of states and individuals, not to regulate commerce. In the mandatory speed limit law mentioned above, the federal government used its taxing authority and revenue to force the states to accept mandatory highway speeds…the federal government would deny federal highway funds to states if they refused to comply.
The constitutionality of health care reform, particularly when it does not include anything about regulating commerce, is truly the elephant in the living room. While Congress debates about adding jail time and fines if an individual does not buy health insurance, tort reform, the regulation of insurance rates across state lines, access to out-of state insurance…are not addressed in the legislation.
Noting that none of Congress’ enumerated powers support an individual health mandate, said David Rivkin, an attorney who worked in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and Bush. Rivkin further noted:
“This mandate can only be based upon a view that Congress can exercise general police powers, a view profoundly at odds with the Framers’ vision of the federal government as one of limited and enumerated powers,” he said. “If the federal government can mandate an individual insurance purchase mandate, it can also mandate an unlimited array of other mandates and prescriptions, including the mandate to buy health club memberships or even to purchase a given quantity of fruits and vegetables.”
No one I know of doesn’t think there are reforms needed in health insurance access. But Congress is not doing that, they have another agenda. The bills before Congress don’t even attack the problem, they attack our wallets, sensibilities, and sense of security! And in the distraction of that attack, the fundamental violation of the Constitution is ignored.
When confronted with this inconvenient truth, a sitting U.S. Senator just admitted to abuse and ignorance of the Constitution. Shades of another era, methinks.
Update: Here is an audio of Nancy Pelosi saying the same thing! (h/t Miri)