Audio: Scalia lectures Verrilli on enumerated powers

The guy who uploaded this to YouTube calls it a “benchslap.” It’s loads of fun, and the point about limited powers will sound familiar. The key part comes early when Scalia jumps in to challenge Verrilli’s citation of Court precedent. Those cases dealt with commerce, he says; in this case, the legislation is aimed at people who aren’t participating in commerce, i.e. people without insurance. That’s a gut-punch to the left since, once you make that move conceptually, the Commerce Clause defense of the statute is hanging by a thread. You can follow his thinking over the rest of the clip from there. If it’s not commerce, then Congress has no power to regulate it, and if Congress has no power to regulate it, then the Tenth Amendment says this is a matter for the states. And to think, a few days ago, Democrats thought they might be able to use Scalia’s Raich opinion to swing him over to their side.

Roberts was a bit more equivocal in today’s arguments but read Philip Klein’s analysis of the rhetoric he used in his comments from the bench. There were an awful lot of phrases in there suggesting he was arguing from belief against the statute, not merely as a devil’s advocate to probe the lawyers’ arguments. Meanwhile, over at SCOTUSblog, Kevin Russell looks at Roberts’s and Alito’s questioning and wonders, “Is Kennedy the only possible fifth vote for the government?” His conclusion: Yep, pretty much. Exit question: C’mon, a Reagan appointee’s not really going to be the fifth vote for the ObamaCare mandate, is he? Good lord.

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John Stossel 12:01 AM on June 09, 2023