Earlier this week, in an odd reaction to the shooting in Tucson last weekend, Speaker John Boehner cancelled all votes scheduled for the entire week. That action postponed the healthcare repeal vote that had been scheduled this week. In so doing, the Republicans deferred action on a key element of the platform on which many had been elected or reelected two months ago. Presumably, the vote will be scheduled in the near future after the Republicans feel comfortable once again working.
Taking the vote on whether to repeal the healthcare legislation passed last Spring and signed by President Barack Obama – often referred to as “ObamaCare” — is fine; and it sends an important signal that the GOP majority in the House have not yet forgotten their campaign promises. However, it will be a symbolic vote, insofar as the Republicans clearly lack a veto-override majority in the House, and do not yet enjoy sufficient numbers in the Senate to bring the matter to a vote.
At least for the next two years, the real battle over the fundamental constitutional principles overridden by the ObamaCare legislation – including the blatantly unconstitutional provision that the government can force a person to purchase health insurance even if they choose not to – will be fought in the federal courts. Already, one federal judge in Virginia has ruled the individual mandate provision unconstitutional; and another judge in Florida may do so this Spring. It is likely that the controversy will reach the nation’s High Court before the 2012 election.
Given the stakes involved in these court cases – whether there shall be any limits at all on the power of the federal government to force citizens of this country to do its bidding – it will be none too soon to get this question answered by the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, there are some steps the Congress can take to move us at least with small steps, away from the direction in which ObamaCare is pushing us. Appropriations bills could include cuts to funding various provisions in the healthcare legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee could do a much better job than in the past, of aggressively probing judicial nominees’ views on the absurd reach of the Constitution’s so-called “commerce clause” that has been stretched beyond all recognition to justify government control. And Members opposed to the law can discuss it regularly and substantively so the problems inherent in the law remain in the forefront of the nation’s public discourse.
A symbolic vote can be postponed; but the ultimate question presented the people of the United States by ObamaCare cannot.
- by Bob Barr, The Barr Code