Most people are by now familiar with the broad strokes of the lawsuits challenging Obamacare: more than 30 cases around the country allege, among other claims, that the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to require people to buy a product (the individual health insurance mandate)—and the only way to avoid the mandate is to become poor. After decisions going both ways in the district courts, we are now at the appellate stage in five of those suits, including Virginia’s and the Florida-led 26-state effort.
Those who follow developments in constitutional law are also familiar with the broad legal arguments being made: that the power to regulate interstate commerce, even when read in the context of the power to make laws that are necessary and proper to executing that specified commerce power, does not include the power to force someone to engage in economic activity—to create, in effect, the commerce being regulated. Not even during the height of the New Deal did the government require this, and there are no parallels in the Civil Rights Era or since. (And also that Congress can’t do this under the taxing power for various reasons that I won’t go into here; even those courts ruling for the government have rejected the taxing power assertion.)
Finally, those who follow Cato are probably aware that I’ve been spending a good part of my time since Obamacare’s enactment in March 2010 in this area: filing briefs, writing articles, debating around the country, appearing in the media. And I’m not alone; our entire Center for Constitutional Studies has been involved in various capacities. Indeed, Cato Chairman Bob Levy himself produced a very useful Primer for Nonlawyers about what is the clearly the central constitutional and public policy debate of our generation.
Well, if anyone cares to peek beyond the curtain of how Cato’s legal efforts against Obamacare have evolved, I have an article on that forthcoming in the Florida International University Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
This article chronicles the (first) year I spent opposing the constitutionality of Obamacare: Between debates, briefs, op-eds, blogging, testimony, and media, I have spent well over half of my time since the legislation’s enactment on attacking Congress’s breathtaking assertion of federal power in this context. Braving transportation snafus, snowstorms, and Eliot Spitzer, it’s been an interesting ride. And so, weaving legal arguments into first-person narrative, I hope to add a unique perspective to an important debate that goes to the heart of this nation’s founding principles. The individual mandate is Obamacare’s highest-profile and perhaps most egregious constitutional violation because the Supreme Court has never allowed – Congress has never claimed – the power to require people to engage in economic activity. If it is allowed to stand, then no principled limits on federal power remain. But it doesn’t have to be this way; as the various cases wend their way to an eventual date at the Supreme Court, I will be with them, keeping the government honest in court and the debate alive in the public eye.
Read the whole thing, titled “A Long Strange Trip: My First Year Challenging the Constitutionality of Obamacare.”