This discussion in the WSJ
puts the point very simply.
Last week, the Texas attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, wrote that a federal mandate to carry health insurance "threatens individual liberty." Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican running for governor, held a press conference in December to make the same point.
Democrats dismiss the Republican arguments as a last-ditch effort by the minority party to block the majority's will. They say the plan is grounded in basic powers the Constitution grants Congress: to regulate interstate commerce, collect taxes and "provide for the general Welfare."
Since the New Deal era, the Supreme Court has broadly interpreted congressional authority under the Commerce Clause. Congress has successfully invoked that power to limit the amount of wheat farmers can grow, ban racial discrimination at restaurants and prosecute medical patients for raising marijuana to alleviate their symptoms.
But the court has never considered a federal program structured like the health overhaul, which would require people without insurance to buy it or face a tax or penalty. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said in July that it was a "challenging question" whether the commerce power extends that far.
Democrats and their allies say that despite its novelty, the insurance mandate falls within the definition of interstate commerce. The Senate bill cites data to show the importance of the health-care industry to the national economy and the damage caused by leaving millions of Americans uninsured.
Requiring the uninsured to buy coverage will "create economies of scale" and "is essential to creating effective health-insurance markets," the bill says.
Republicans argue that while Congress can regulate economic activity, the failure to buy insurance amounts to inactivity -- and the Constitution doesn't give Congress power to regulate that.
"Anything we have ever done, somebody actually had to have an action before we could tax or regulate it," Mr. Ensign said on the Senate floor. . . .
Labels: healthcare, Insurance, Regulation