December 23rd, 2009
10:51 AM ET
8 years ago

GOP challenging constitutionality of health bill mandate

Washington (CNN) - Congressional Republicans plan to mount a last-ditch challenge Wednesday to the health care bill now moving through the Senate, arguing that a key provision is unconstitutional.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, has claimed the bill's requirement that all Americans purchase coverage is not authorized "by any of the limited enumerated powers granted to the federal government." He also has argued the mandate violates the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property shall not "be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Congress lacks "the legal or moral authority to force this mandate on its citizens," Ensign recently said. "Is it really constitutional for this body to tell all Americans that they must buy health insurance coverage?"

Democrats are expected to defeat Ensign's point of order and pass a motion Wednesday setting the stage for final passage of the sweeping $871 billion measure. A final vote on the bill is currently set for Thursday morning.

Any measure passed by the Senate would still have to be merged with the $1 trillion version approved by the House of Representatives in November.

Democrats hope to have a bill ready for President Barack Obama's signature before the president's State of the Union address early next year.

"Health care reform is not a matter of if," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. "Health care reform now is a matter of when."


Filed under: Health care
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. File under "Sarcasm"

    Who cares if it's constitutional, it's "historic".

    December 23, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. Bill

    Be gentle, some of these elected "officials" may not have heard of the constitution.

    December 23, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. dan smith

    It's about time someone finally pointed out the unconstitutionality of this bill.

    December 23, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    You have better luck to say the Patriot Act is unconstitutional than the health care reform... You constitutional newbs and constitutional hypocrites!

    December 23, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  5. Pete

    This is a rare case where I agree with the GOP. The mandate is just plain wrong. However, unlike the GOP, I feel that if you are required to buy health insurance (which you shouldn't be), you should be able to buy it from an organization whose motive is not profit. We need the public option.
    Boy, if I owned a company, I'd sure love it if the government made a law requiring everyone in the country to buy my product. I supported Obama over Hillary precisely because I thought her plans for an insurance mandate were wrong. The law of supply and demand tells us that as demand increases, so do prices if there is no increase in supply and this will obviously increase demand without any increase in supply.

    December 23, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. Chris H.

    Is it Constitutional for states to tell the people they have to have auto insurance? Because if so, I think this is ok too.

    December 23, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. DALE

    The Repubs had 9 months to stand up and debate in good faith but instead chose to play games, use stall tactics and stamp their feet like spoiled children. So much better time could have been spent, now they choose to waste more.

    December 23, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Billy J..Texas..

    Wow, these guys are like a pro football team that refuses to accept they didn't make it to the playoffs. You may be able to win a game on a technicality but your team will always be thought of as the losers.

    December 23, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Sniffit

    Setting aside any legal analysis, all that winning this challenge will earn them is the public option going back in the bill. That would likely increase support for the bill since a lot of the people, like myself, who hate it and see it as a giant prostate massage for the insurance industry have that opinion precisely because the bill lacks a robust public option.

    December 23, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  10. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Under the Tenth Amendment, Federal intrusion into health care is entirely unconstitutional:

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

    There is nothing in the body of the Constitution, or in any of its Amendments, delegating the powers implicit in the health care bill to the Federal government.

    The same, by the way, is true of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and every other "entitlement."

    But addressing his concerns to Congress isn't the right way for Senator Ensign to go–he ought to be bringing the point to the Supreme Court.

    December 23, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Laura in KS

    I agree that Americans should not be forced to buy health insurance...FROM PRIVATE CORPORATIONS. I can definitely see the argument there. However, if our TAX DOLLARS went towards providing health coverage (for ALL Americans), then I don't see how that would be unconstitutional.

    December 23, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Fair is Fair

    Good!

    Since more than one of the provisions in this boondoggle are clearly unconstitutional, they have a valid point.

    December 23, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. Well isnt that special?

    Do any of you people realize that there is a penalty for NOT purchasing health insurance along the lines of $7500? So gee, who does this hurt, the ones who can afford it and do have it or the ones who need it but can't afford it and now must pay a penalty for not having health insurance? Good one, dems. Way to screw your constituents (I'll say it slow...the ones who voted for you).

    December 23, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  14. Fair is Fair

    "Democrats are expected to defeat Ensign's point of order and pass a motion Wednesday setting the stage for final passage of the sweeping $871 billion measure. A final vote on the bill is currently set for Thursday morning."

    Funny how the democrats don't care about trampling on the Constitution when it's them doing it.

    December 23, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. annie s

    Can we make these shameless people just go away already? Where were they when George Bush violated the 4th Amendment with illegal wiretaps against American citizens? Or when he signed a faith based initiative that violated the separation of Chruch and State? Or even the unconstitutional treaty he entered to extend the war in Iraq by three years?

    December 23, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  16. Will Westmoreland

    Do elections matter any more? The American people overwhelmingly elected the Democrats to power in the last election and the cornerstone was the health care platform of the President and the Party. The misinformation campaign conducted by the Republican Party and the political hacks who built the Tea Party movement as a supposed grassrotts movement, along with talk radio, have villified the President and the plan at every turn. After spending millions to spread lies and innuendo, they are still on the verge of losing thier battle to protect the status quo. Let the Democrats pass the plan and then the American people can judge the Democrats on the outcome. But similar to Social Security, Medicare and other programs of the past, the Republicans probably see the writing on the wall. If passed, this bill will guarantee medical coverage to millions who are currently left out of the system. The Republicans should not let their hatred of the President and their fear that their party is dying.

    December 23, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. Obama = WORST president EVER

    How can Congress force people to buy something they may not want and issue penalties to those who don't?!??!

    If so, I want Congress to force Gibbs to buy deordorant and lose 50 lbs.

    "Liberty once lost is lost forever." – John Adams.

    December 23, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. Carl Abernathy

    Why wouldn't it be a "right" that Congress should provide Americans with daily sustenance (food, shelter, clothing) which would be necessary for proper health care? How did "health care" become a "right" before sustenance?

    December 23, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. JC Espinosa

    Forget about the fifth amendment, the silver-coiffed Senator has violated the seventh and tenth commandments. At least he (his parents*) paid "just compensation" for his flagrant adultery and for coveting another man's wife (one of his employees no less!). Talk about noblesse oblige. Talk about chutzpah.

    December 23, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. ABM

    This is the same story from the RNC: Stop the Dems, don't work with the Dems, throw a temper tanturm when you don't get your way. This is such a waste of time and resources.

    Let's all sue to disband the RNC for violating the Constitution by doing everything to deny American citizens heathcare and appropriate healthcare protection. The RNC is full of babies and ineffective people who have lost touch with the people PAYING taxes. All they listen to are coporations and lobby 'advocates'. They do not deserve to be in office.

    If this is what I pay for I say we should remove each and every one of them from office now. Time ti institute term limits and rules to make their removal from office easier for the American people to act when we see such behavior in DC.

    December 23, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Not a chance - Democrats have no regard for the Constitution or its enumerated powers.

    Personally, I think I'll pay the $750 annual fine, rather than get more expensive insurance. Then, when I need a liver transplant, I'll purchase insurance and not be denied for my preexisting condition. Maybe this can be extended to automobile insurance - I won't buy insurance until after I wreck my car, and then can't be denied for my car's "preexisting condition." Thanks, suckers!

    December 23, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  22. cg

    It is clear this is going to be forced down our throats. I will never support the Dems again, but Iam sure no one cares about that either!

    December 23, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  23. C.T.

    The least the republicans could do is get a decent spokesperson. The senator from Nevada has no credibility. Did his co-worker get "just compensation" for his wife?

    December 23, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  24. Hammerer

    If the healthcare reform bill is such a great deal for everyone and the voters wanted it, why did the Dems have to buy at least 10 senators votes for a minium of $300 million each. Was the bill so bad or the Senate just that corrupt? My guess is BOTH.

    December 23, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    GOP needs to seriously shut up and go home . the party of NO is just about done . america needs health care reform and the GOP has chosen there side of the fence ..it is the insurance companies lobbist and the CEO'S bonus's . and the democrates are standing firm and voting for the people . even with the republican lies out there . keep up the good work democrates you have my vote . when all the dust settles and the new health care gets tweeked we will end up with a public option .and the insurance companies will no longer be able to rape americans over health care costs . then the democrates need to go after big OIL and take away the greed set a price that is real and get rid of the pricing for specu;ators driving the price of gas and diesel up .. 🙂

    December 23, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
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