Tag: Constitution

Contraceptives Mandate Brings ObamaCare’s Coercive Power into Sharper Focus

President Obama is catching some well-earned blowback for his decision to force religious institutions “to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.” You see, ObamaCare penalizes individuals (employers) who don’t purchase (offer) a certain minimum package of health insurance coverage. The Obama administration is demanding that coverage must include the aforementioned reproductive care services. The exception for religious institutions that object to such coverage is so narrow that, as one wag put it, not even Jesus would qualify. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reassures us, “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” Ummm, Madam Secretary…the Constitution only mentions one of those things. The Catholic church is hopping mad. Even the reliably left-wing E.J. Dionne is angry, writing that the President “utterly botched” the issue “not once but twice” and “threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.”

As I wrote over and over as Congress debated ObamaCare, anger and division are inevitable consequences of this law. I recently debated the merits of ObamaCare’s individual mandate on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a paragraph that got cut from my essay:

We can be certain…that the mandate will divide the nation. An individual mandate guarantees that the government—not you—will decide what medical services you will purchase, including contraceptives, fertility services that result in the destruction of human embryos, or elective abortions. The same apparatus that can force Americans to subsidize elective abortions can also be used to ban private abortion coverage once the other team wins. The rancor will only grow.

Or as I put it in 2009,

Either the government will force taxpayers to fund abortions, or the restrictions necessary to prevent taxpayer funding will reduce access to abortion coverage. There is no middle ground. Somebody has to lose. Welcome to government-run health care.

The same is true for contraception. The rancor will grow until we repeal this law.

ObamaCare highlights a choice that religious organizations – such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where my grandfather served as counsel – have to make. Either they stop casting their lots with Caesar and join the fight to repeal government health care mandates and subsidies, or they forfeit any right to complain when Caesar turns on them. Matthew 26:52.

‘We Are Not Deciding between Regulation and Autonomy, We Are Deciding Whether or Not We Want a Puppet Government’

That’s how Charlie Arlinghaus, president of New Hampshire’s Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, describes the decision confronting states about whether to create an ObamaCare Exchange in this op-ed for the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, Gingrich Division

Roger Pilon has been doing good, quick work on New Gingrich’s pronouncements on the role of the judiciary in interpreting the Constitution. (Roger read Newt’s 54-page “white paper” so you don’t have to!)

I have nothing to add to that assessment of the former House Speaker’s legally questionable and politically unwise views. Instead, I want to share a snippet from this lighter take by Mark Steinberg:

The Supreme Court today held that the United States Congress is unconstitutional and must vacate the Capitol no later than January 1, 2012.

The 8-1 vote followed closely on the heels of statements by Newt Gingrich, now leading the race for the GOP presidential nomination, that as president he would ignore decisions by the courts if he was having “a really bad day”; that Congress should have the power to subpoena and impeach federal judges whose jibs the legislators found un-seaworthy; and that the judiciary is “a twig on the governmental tree that the president and Congress can prune and burn in the backyard.”

The piece reads like something from The Onion.

Funny, when I heard that Gingrich was discoursing on the law, I thought he’d be proposing the appointment of sentient robots to be our judicial overlords…

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Will You Be Able to Protect Your Family if Politicians Destabilize Society?

About a week ago, I wrote that people in western nations need the freedom to own guns just in case there are riots, chaos, and social disarray when welfare states collapse.

Much to my surprise and pleasure, this resulted in an invitation to appear on the National Rifle Association’s webcast to discuss the issue.

As I noted in the interview, I’m just a fiscal policy wonk, but the right to keep and bear arms should be a priority for anyone who believes in freedom and responsibility. And even though I only have a couple of guns, you can see that I’m raising my kids to have a proper appreciation for the Second Amendment.

I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where we suffer societal breakdown, but I won’t be too surprised if it happens in some European countries. We’ve already seen the challenges faced by disarmed Brits during recent riots in the United Kingdom.

In the NRA interview, I pointed out that law enforcement is one of the few legitimate functions of government, so it is utterly despicable when politicians fail to fulfill that responsibility and also deprive households from having the ability to protect themselves.

Last but not least, watch this video if you want to be inspired about protecting the Second Amendment. Pay close attention around the five-minute mark.

Obama’s Top 10 Constitutional Violations

That’s the topic of my latest op-ed, in the Daily Caller.  Here’s the list:

  1. The individual mandate
  2. Medicaid coercion
  3. The Independent Payment Advisory Board
  4. The Chrysler bailout
  5. Dodd-Frank
  6. The deep-water drilling ban
  7. Political-speech disclosure for federal contractors
  8. Taxing political contributions
  9. Graphic tobacco warnings
  10. Health care waivers

For descriptions of what makes these things so constitutionally bad, read the whole thing.

Whither Constitutional Authority Statements?

On its first day of business this past January, the Republican House majority adopted a new rule requiring every bill to include a so-called constitutional authority statement, listing the part(s) of the Constitution that give Congress the power to do what the bill says. 

At the time, I analyzed the requirement, as did Cato’s chairman emeritus Bill Niskanen, and what effect it might have on congressional action.  We noted that, while it was a good thing for people (and especially elected officials) to be paying attention to the Constitution, the practical effect may be negligible because legislators would overwhelmingly cite the General Welfare Clause, Commerce Clause, and Necessary and Proper Clause – all part of Article I, section 8.  To minimize this result, Cato ran an ad in Politico and other publications explaining what these clauses could and could not justify.  Here are the points we made:

  • Contrary to modern readings, the General Welfare Clause does not grant Congress an independent power to tax and spend for the “general welfare.” If it did, there would be no need to enumerate any other powers.  Rather, it authorizes Congress to enact the specified taxes for the specified purposes—headings more precisely defined by the 17 enumerated powers or ends that follow. And Congress’s power to tax for the “general welfare” precludes it from taxing to provide for special parties or interests.
  • The Commerce Clause too does not authorize Congress to regulate anything and everything, which again would put an end to the idea of a government of enumerated and thus limited powers.  Under the Articles of Confederation, states had erected tariffs and other protectionist measures that were impeding interstate commerce. To end that and ensure free interstate commerce, Congress was given the power to regulate, or “make regular,” such commerce—the main sense of “regulate” at the time. Were Congress thought to have the all but unbounded regulatory power it exercises today, the Constitution would never have been ratified.
  • The Necessary and Proper grants Congress the means to execute its enumerated powers or ends and those of the other branches. It adds no new ends. And the means must be “necessary and proper.”  That means they must respect the Constitution’s structure and spirit of limited government; they must respect federalism principles; and they must respect the rights retained by the people.

So, nine months later, what happened?  The Republican Study Committee – essentially the GOP House Caucus’s conservative sub-caucus – has come up with the following analysis (analyzing 3042 bills through September 16, some of them counted more than once in the below statistics):

  • 3 bills cite only the Preamble to the Constitution.
  • 84 bills cite only Article 1, which creates the Legislative Branch.
  • 58 bills cite only Article 1, Section 1, which grants all legislative powers to Congress.
  • 470 bills cite only Article 1, Section 8, which is the list of specific powers of Congress, without citing any specific clause.
  • 539 bills cite [the General Welfare Clause].
  • 567 bills cite [the Commerce Clause].
  • 247 bills cite [the Necessary and Proper Clause], without citing a “foregoing power” as required by [Article I, section 8,] clause 18.
  • 309 bills cite two or more of the “general welfare” clause, commerce clause, or the “necessary and proper” clause.
  • 87 bills cite Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, which provides that no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.
  • 210 bills cite Article 4, Section 3, which provides that Congress shall have the power to make rules and regulations respecting the territory or property of the United States.
  • 252 bills cite an amendment to the Constitution.  For example, 54 cite the 10th Amendment (powers not delegated to the federal government), 30 cite the 14th Amendment (“equal protection, etc.”), and 64 cite the 16th Amendment (income tax).

Pretty thin gruel and, as I noted above, not unexpected.  Then again, if the constitutional authority statement requirement has caused even one House member to waver over what he has the power to propose – let alone to refrain from offering a bill – this minor legislative rule will have been an improvement on the status quo ante.