The health care debate has illuminated how little regard many members of Congress have for the U.S. Constitution.
First, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) said, “There ain’t no rules here… When the deal goes down … we make ‘em up as we go along.”
Then, House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) claimed that the Constitution’s non-existent “Good and Welfare clause” grants Congress the power to compel Americans to purchase health insurance.
Now, Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) admits he doesn’t really care whether the Constitution grants Congress that power:
Off-camera: Where in the Constitution…
Rep. Hare: I don’t worry about the Constitution on this, to be honest.
Off-camera: [Laughter.] Jackpot, brother.
Rep. Hare: What I care more about — I care more about the people that are dying every day that don’t have health insurance.
Off-camera: You care more about that than the U.S. Constitution that you swore to uphold!
Rep. Hare: I believe that it says we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now you tell me…
Off-camera: That’s the Declaration of Independence.
Rep. Hare: It doesn’t matter to me. Either one…
[Lots of childish sniping.]
Off-camera: Where in the Constitution does it give you the authority to…
Rep. Hare: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Off-camera: That’s what I thought.
Of course, that doesn’t really capture how annoying both the congressman and his interrogators are. So here’s the video:
Rep. Hare is channeling Chicken Little: because the sky is falling, we don’t have time to worry about the Constitution’s restraints on congressional power. We all know how that story ends. Indeed, true to the fable, there’s no convincing evidence that Rep. Hare’s solution would save the lives he thinks it would save, and it could even cost lives in the long run. (Fun fact: Wikipedia reports that in early versions of the fable, Chicken Little is actually a hare.)
In addition to brushing up on their Chicken Little, Rep. Hare and his colleagues might want to rent A Man for All Seasons to remind themselves why it’s important to pay attention to what the law actually says:
Sir Thomas More: What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!