Oct. 1, 2013
On June 28th, 2012, the United States Supreme Court announced a sweeping decision, NFIB v. Sebelius, otherwise known as the challenge to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). In it, writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts declared “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
In this aspect of the ruling, the Supreme Court was upholding what is known as the Individual Mandate, which is the legal requirement that all US citizens either obtain health care or pay a financial penalty. It’s important to note that in this ruling, the Chief Justice Roberts and the Court did not rely on the traditional method for allowing the federal government to pass essentially any law it pleases, the Interstate Commerce Clause. Found in Article 1 Section 8, the ICC states that Congress shall have the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes”. The argument typically goes, and was made in the government’s defense of the ACA and Individual Mandate, that because any given activity can somehow be tied to commerce, and because in our modern society, virtually all commerce can be considered to be “between the several states”, then Congress has the Constitutional authority to pass a law regulating said activity.
NFIB v. Sebelius provides an important roadblock to the usage of the Interstate Commerce Clause for the purpose of granting the government unlimited power. By refusing to rely upon the ICC, the Supreme Court has told us that there is, indeed, a limit to the applicability of Interstate Commerce as a means for regulating the everyday lives of Americans. Where that limit lies was beyond the scope of the case before the Court, however, the fact that Interstate Commerce wasn’t used to uphold the Individual Mandate tells us that the limit must exist. This, in itself, is a victory for advocates of limited government and personal freedom.
This article was posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm