Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Is Health Care Reform Constitutional?

with one comment

Last seen reminding state agencies how they can and should legally discriminate against homosexuals, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is already promising to file a legal challenge to tonight’s health care bill. This of course leads us to another exciting round of “Is Health Care Reform Constitutional?” Tonight’s contestant is Randy E. Barnett of Georgetown Law, writing in the Washington Post. Barnett appears much more agnostic on the specific legal questions involved than previous contestants like Erwin Chemerinsky, focusing instead on the aggressive radicality of the Roberts majority:

But what if five justices think the legislation was carried bleeding across the finish line on a party-line vote over widespread bipartisan opposition? What if control of one or both houses of Congress flips parties while lawsuits are pending? Then there might just be five votes against regulating inactivity by compelling citizens to enter into a contract with a private company. This legislation won’t go into effect tomorrow. In the interim, it is far more vulnerable than if some citizens had already started to rely upon its benefits.

If this sounds far-fetched, consider another recent case in which the smart money doubted there were five votes to intervene in a politicized controversy involving technical procedures. A case in which five justices may have perceived that long-established rules were being gamed for purely partisan advantage.

You might have heard of it: Bush v. Gore.

Of course I worry about this, because I think Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas would overturn health care in a heartbeat, on whatever spurious ground presented itself. But while I don’t always agree with him, I think Kennedy has integrity, and I don’t think he would go along with it. (Have to admit, though, I’ve never been more sad to have to say “no relation”…)

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  1. […] has no doubt, forcefully rebutting some of the agnosticism in the Randy Barnett piece I linked earlier in the week: The most likely constitutional challenge will be that the individual mandate to purchase health […]


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