WHILE POLICY considerations will infuse the Supreme Court arguments Tuesday about the health-care mandate, the session will focus on this legal question: Does the Constitution give Congress the power to order all individuals above a certain income level to buy health insurance? This is the topic of the Supreme Court’s second of three days of consideration of the health-care reform act.
Twenty-six states, the National Federation of Independent Business and several individuals argue that Congress has overreached. To them, the mandate represents a top-down, big-government imperative that threatens liberty. They acknowledge that the Constitution gives Congress robust powers to regulate interstate commerce and the individuals and companies involved in such commerce. But they argue that Congress cannot force individuals to make a purchase from a private company in the marketplace.
“[I]f Congress has the power not just to regulate commercial suppliers and those who voluntarily enter the market, but to compel demand as well, then we have truly entered a brave new world,” the states argue in a court filing. And if the Supreme Court blesses such a move, they say, there will be nothing to stop Congress from mandating purchases of everything from automobiles to vegetables. The mandate, they conclude, is “as unbounded as it is unprecedented.”