First Patrick Leahy scoffed at questions over whether the federal government has the authority to order Americans to buy a particular product, even though that has never happened in our 233-year history, and now the Speaker of the House claims that the question is “not serious.” CNS News has the audio of Nancy Pelosi providing the Democratic dodge on the constitutionality question:
CNSNews.com: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”
Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
CNSNews.com: “Yes, yes I am.”
Pelosi avoided answering the question, probably because she doesn’t have an answer. Her spokesman said that it was “not a serious question,” but if so, one would presume that Pelosi or her office could provide an easily-corroborated answer. After all, the Constitution is where Congress derives all of its authority. It’s not exactly a lengthy document. How difficult is it to cite the clause that enables Congress to impose a mandate on its citizens to spend money on anything but a tax?
Well, as it turns out, pretty darned difficult. The interstate commerce clause doesn’t apply because Congress doesn’t allow for interstate commerce in health insurance. The “general welfare” clause has never applied to individual mandates, which is why neither Leahy or Pelosi will invoke it publicly. If they trot that out in front of the Supreme Court, they’ll essentially be arguing that the federal government has the authority to impose any kind of mandates at any time on anyone in the country, which makes the limitations of power in the Constitution meaningless — and by extension, makes the Supreme Court meaningless as well. Good luck getting them to buy into that policy.