Obamacare on Trial: Case of the Century?
Rejecting the Affordable Care Act could deprive 30 million people of health insurance, weaken the coverage for tens of millions more, and alter one-sixth of the economy. In those respects, obviously, it would be a highly consequential decision. But such a ruling could also have have far-reaching legal effects, the kind Bush v. Gore did not. At least in theory, the court could use this case to redefine the boundaries of federal power, in a way that the courts have not done in nearly a century.
What are the limits of the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce? Defenders of the law claim that the individual mandate, which requires most non-poor people to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, falls within its power to regulate commerce among the states. A long line of precedents suggests the defenders of the law are right.
Critics of the law suggest that the commerce power does not extend to regulating “inactivity,” which is their term for declining to obtain insurance for future medical expenses. A majority of justices could decide to adopt that reasoning. But, if they do, the justices will be drawing a distinction that the court has never recognized before.
What are the limits of the “necessary and proper” clause? The commerce clause isn’t the only place in the constitution the government claims to find authority for the mandate. It also cites the “necessary and proper” clause. Specifically, the government claims that the mandate is “necessary” for carrying out its plan to regulate the price of health insurance (a goal even the law’s critics recognize is, by itself, legitimate) and a “proper” means for doing so.
What are the limits of the “necessary and proper” clause? The commerce clause isn’t the only place in the constitution the government claims to find authority for the mandate. It also cites the “necessary and proper” clause. Specifically, the government claims that the mandate is “necessary” for carrying out its plan to regulate the price of health insurance (a goal even the law’s critics recognize is, by itself, legitimate) and a “proper” means for doing so. Here, too, the government has the power of precedent on its side.

Obamacare on Trial: Case of the Century?

Rejecting the Affordable Care Act could deprive 30 million people of health insurance, weaken the coverage for tens of millions more, and alter one-sixth of the economy. In those respects, obviously, it would be a highly consequential decision. But such a ruling could also have have far-reaching legal effects, the kind Bush v. Gore did not. At least in theory, the court could use this case to redefine the boundaries of federal power, in a way that the courts have not done in nearly a century.

What are the limits of the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce? Defenders of the law claim that the individual mandate, which requires most non-poor people to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, falls within its power to regulate commerce among the states. A long line of precedents suggests the defenders of the law are right.

Critics of the law suggest that the commerce power does not extend to regulating “inactivity,” which is their term for declining to obtain insurance for future medical expenses. A majority of justices could decide to adopt that reasoning. But, if they do, the justices will be drawing a distinction that the court has never recognized before.

What are the limits of the “necessary and proper” clause? The commerce clause isn’t the only place in the constitution the government claims to find authority for the mandate. It also cites the “necessary and proper” clause. Specifically, the government claims that the mandate is “necessary” for carrying out its plan to regulate the price of health insurance (a goal even the law’s critics recognize is, by itself, legitimate) and a “proper” means for doing so.

What are the limits of the “necessary and proper” clause? The commerce clause isn’t the only place in the constitution the government claims to find authority for the mandate. It also cites the “necessary and proper” clause. Specifically, the government claims that the mandate is “necessary” for carrying out its plan to regulate the price of health insurance (a goal even the law’s critics recognize is, by itself, legitimate) and a “proper” means for doing so. Here, too, the government has the power of precedent on its side.

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