The Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared deeply skeptical that the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, as the court completed two hours of debate Tuesday on the key component of the nation’s health-care overhaul law.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, traditionally the justice most likely to side with the court’s liberals, suggested that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act invoked a power “beyond what our cases allow” the Congress to wield in regulating interstate commerce.
“Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?” he asked.
The arguments revealed a familiar alignment of the court. Its four liberal justices, appointed by Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, supported the government’s argument. But one of the five conservatives appointed by Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush would be needed to uphold the act, and all at some point resisted the government’s position. Their sharp questioning raised doubts about whether the individual insurance mandate could survive the Supreme Court’s historic review.Rich Lowry writes:
The shade of James Madison hovers over the Obamacare argument at the Supreme Court.
It is the system of limited and carefully divided government powers that he had a large hand in crafting — and defended so ably in the Federalist Papers — that is at stake in the contest over the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
If the mandate stands, it will be the latest blow to Madison’s scheme, which is the best architecture for self-government yet devised by man, but has been steadily worn down over time.
In the mind of contemporary progressivism, these words of Madison from the Federalist Papers simply don’t compute: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” They are an antiquated 18th-century sentiment unsuited to our more complex and more sophisticated time, to be ignored when not actively scorned.
But Madison thought this division of power so important for a reason: “In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.”