One of the most important issues in the news right now is that of health care, and now a new step has been taken toward the repeal of “Obamacare.” U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, the second federal jurist to rule against the law, wrote that “Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority” with the buyinsurance requirement known as the “individual mandate.”
Republicans continue to praise the steps that are being made while Democrats continue to cry out about the need for universal health care. Republicans will continue to hail these victories until the Supreme Court debates the bill’s constitutionality or the bill is repealed by an act of Congress.
Democratic leaders are saying that this is judicial activism and that judicial activism is a bad thing. Families USA, which backed President Obama’s health care law, called Vinson’s decision “radical judicial activism run amok.”
This is just the court’s interpretation of previous cases, most likely Gibbons v. Ogden and McCullough v. Maryland, which ruled that while the federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, it does not have the power to go as far as to force citizens to purchase health insurance. Never before has an act of Congress required citizens to make a purchase. In that respect, this case is like no other.
A couple cases do come close to this one: National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation and United States v. Lopez.
This first was a part of the New Deal cases that were placed before the Supreme Court after Roosevelt’s opponents fought against them, claiming them unconstitutional. Chief Justice at the time, Charles Evans Hughes, said, “Although activities may be intrastate in character when separately considered, if they have such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens and obstructions, Congress cannot be denied the power to exercise that control.”
The second case, United States v. Lopez, actually resulted in a ruling against the federal government. The background showed that Alfonso Lopez, Jr., a 12th grade student at Edison High School in San Antonio, Texas, carried to school a concealed .38 revolver. He was caught and detained based under the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (18 U.S.C. § 922(q)). Lopez’s case stated that the federal government did not have the power to regulate in this instance, where the government believed it could enforce the act (922(q)) because the possibility of the commitment of a violent crime would harm interstate commerce.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lopez and overturned his conviction. Chief Justice Rehnquist, delivering the opinion of the Court, identified the three broad categories of activity that Congress could regulate under the Commerce Clause: the channels of interstate commerce, the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, and activities that substantially affect or substantially relate to interstate commerce.
This case had the latest and most extreme interpretation of the Commerce Clause.
What many people will not realize about the present case is that the issue is not about health care; the legal issue here is whether or not the federal government, through the Commerce Clause, has the power to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. In order to fully examine the issue, politicians and citizens need to examine the legal precedents that have been set from previous cases and rule with regard to that.