Upon taking control of the U.S. House in 2010, Republicans announced that every bill proposed or passed in that chamber would be required to cite specific provisions of the U.S. Constitution that authorize Congress to take such action.
Here, for example, is the language originally contained in H.R. 5, which was approved in the House this week. The bill would abolish the Independent Payment Advisory Board and impose new national limits on malpractice claims.
So, “Health care and insurance industries are industries affecting interstate commerce….”?
They “affect interstate commerce by contributing to the high costs of health care and premiums for health care liability insurance purchased by health care system providers”?
Therefore, the federal government has the authority under the commerce clause to pass legislation dictating how states must handle those issues?
Interesting. Very interesting.
Now, as it happens, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments next week in an important case that also revolves around these very questions. In fact, in its defense of ObamaCare, the administration will use language almost identical to that of House Republicans. They will tell the nine justices that “health care and insurance industries are industries affecting interstate commerce.” They will also claim that health insurance and health care “affect interstate commerce by contributing to the high costs of health care and premiums for health care liability insurance purchased by health care system providers.”
Recognizing the potential embarrassment, not to mention the bad timing, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia this week introduced an amendment that stripped H.R. 5 of the language cited above. His amendment was approved just before the bill went onto final passage. Now, the bill contains no constitutional justification for imposing federal limits on state malpractice awards. Apparently, since they can’t find language in the Constitution to justify their actions that would not also justify ObamaCare, they simply abandoned any pretense that it matters.
– Jay Bookman