Columns / Discourse / February 2, 2011

Observing America: Unconstitutional Affordable Care Act

The healthcare bill signed by President Obama is unconstitutional. On Jan. 31, 2011 a federal judge from the state of Florida declared the whole Act void. The issue with the healthcare bill is the individual mandate provision that would force Americans to buy healthcare or face fines from the IRS. According to Slate news, people with incomes three times over that of the poverty line would be charged $750, and $950 if their income is above that. The Constitutional issue here is the Commerce Clause (

The Constitution of the U.S. in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 says that Congress has the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” Supporters of the healthcare law believe that the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to force Americans to buy healthcare. However, United States v. Lopez (1995) ruled that the Commerce Clause has limits in the sense that issues not involving commerce or economic activity are out of reach of the federal government to regulate.

Healthcare is not an economic activity. It is understood by several economists that healthcare does involve 16 percent of gross domestic product, yet this is not to say that Congress is allowed to force the nation to buy healthcare. According to Judge Roger Vinson, who decided the Florida case, the individual mandate violates the Commerce Clause, because healthcare’s “impact on interstate commerce were to be expressed and calculated mathematically, the status of being uninsured would necessarily be represented by zero” ( He believes that the bill is not even indirectly related to commerce. As a result, this bill is unconstitutional.

Therefore, this is another example of how the federal government has grown too far. From No Child Left Behind and the American Recovery Act, to going to Iraq without declaring war or the healthcare individual mandate, these are federal actions that would make the Founders roll over in their graves. The federal government was not meant to do all government actions. Hence, Americans have to ask themselves, where did the States’ rights go? What happened to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? The federal government applies policies that are not explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution. As the Tenth Amendment says, “power not delegated to the United States by the Constitution… are reserved to the States.” The U.S. is a nation that should be governed under the law, not under ambitious legislators or executives.

However, this is not to say that the federal government should not take action. The unemployment rate, housing crisis, skyrocketing debt and deficit and the decaying of entitlements such as Social Security are all problems that the federal government has the responsibility to solve. In fact, the Federalist papers indicate that the federal government must be energetic in order to be efficient. Yet, all federal actions must be constitutional. The left, during the Bush Administration, clamored against Gitmo due to the constitutional questions, but now the left must be equally appalled by Obama’s actions that are not in par with the Constitution. It’s understandable though; once one gets power one becomes blind.

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