(CNSNews.com) – White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNSNews.com on Wednesday that there is no “veracity” to the argument that the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to force individuals to buy health insurance.
The Congressional Budget Office has said that the federal government has never before in American history forced Americans to purchase any good or service.
When the health-care bill was being debated in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raised questions about the constitutionality of forcing Americans to buy health insurance, which all congressional versions of the health care bill would do.
Hatch rejected the notion that the Commerce Clause–which empowers Congress to regulate commerce “among the several states”–justifies forcing Americans to purchase a product they do not want to buy. If Congress can make people buy health insurance, Hatch argued, they can force Americans to buy refrigerators or new cars.
But Gibbs said those who make this kind of argument have no federal court cases to back them up.
“I won’t be confused as a constitutional scholar, but I don’t believe there’s a lot of–I don’t believe there’s a lot of case law that would demonstrate the veracity of what they’re commentating on,” said Gibbs.
Asked by CNSNews.com last week where specifically the Constitution authorizes Congress to mandate that individuals buy health insurance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
A Congressional Research Service report concluded that requiring individuals to purchase or have health insurance could be challenged.
“Whether such a requirement would be constitutional under the Commerce Clause is perhaps the most challenging question posed by such a proposal, as it is a novel issue whether Congress may use this clause to require an individual to purchase a good or service,” the CRS reportedly says.
In 1994, when the Clinton administration attempted to push a health care reform plan through a Democratic Congress that also mandated every American buy health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office determined that the government had never ordered Americans to buy anything.
“The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States,” the CBO analysis said. “An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.”