November 17, 2009
Where in the Constitution?
By James Wilson

Some members of the media, CNSNews in particular, are asking members of Congress to cite the part of the Constitution that gives them authority to impose an individual health insurance mandate. So far, supporters of the mandate - many of them well-known Congressional leaders - have been stumped.

We chronicle some of the embarrassing or aggravating answers here...

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)

" place in the Constitution that specifically says health care" or education, but "we have made those choices as a country over the years." 

"The United States Congress passed laws regarding Medicare and Medicaid that became de facto mandatory programs. States all the time require people to have driver's licenses... "

Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

"I'm not aware of that, let me put it that way. But what we're trying to do is to provide for people who have needs and that's where the accessibility comes in, and one of the goals that we're trying to present here is to make it accessible."

"Not in particular with health insurance. It's not covered in that respect. But in ways to help citizens in our country to live a good life, let me say it that way, is what we're trying to do, and in this case, we're trying to help them with their health."

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) 

"Well, you know, I don't know that I'm a constitutional scholar, so, I, I’m not going to be able to answer that question."

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) 

"I would have to check the specific sections, so I'll have to get back to you on the specific section. But it is not unusual that the Congress has required individuals to do things, like sign up for the draft and do many other things too, which I don’t think are explicitly contained [in the Constitution]. It gives Congress a right to raise an army, but it doesn’t say you can take people and draft them. But since that was something necessary for the functioning of the government over the past several years, the practice on the books, it's been recognized, the authority to do that."

Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) 

"Well, that’s under certainly the laws of the -- protect the health, welfare of the country . . .That’s under the Constitution. We're not even dealing with any constitutionality here. Should we move in that direction? What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) 

"Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect that end. The end that we're trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility... We mandate other things as well, like paying taxes."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) 

"We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there is no authority?... Why would you say there is no authority? I mean, there's no question there's authority. Nobody questions that."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

“Are you serious? Are you serious?”

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC)

"There's nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do... show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this?"


Filed under Checks & Balances, Health
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