Alaska Senator Begich Doesn’t Say Where Congress Gets Authority to Mandate Purchase of Health Insurance
December 23, 2009 - 5:45 PMWhen asked, Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) did not say where Congress gets the constitutional authority to require that Americans purchase health insurance, as both the Senate and House health care bills mandate, and instead called the issue "more stall tactics."
At the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, CNSNews.com asked Begich: “Where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to make an individual health [insurance] mandate?”
Begich said: “It think it’s just more stall tactics by the Republicans on the issue of health care, providing health care for millions of Americans. It’s a shame that they use these procedures to continue to delay the process.”
Begich added that there was “no merit” to the claim that Congress lacks the authority to force all Americans to buy health insurance policies.
“I think there’s no merit to what they have to claim,” said Begich.
However, in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office – examining the individual mandate in then-President Clinton’s health care reform effort – declared such an idea an “unprecedented form of federal action.”
“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.”
Because Congress has never before required Americans to purchase anything, an individual mandate is without constitutional precedent and would therefore require the Supreme Court to invent en entirely new constitutional doctrine, according to conservative scholars at the Heritage Foundation.
“Nowhere in the Constitution is Congress given the power to mandate that an individual enter into a contract with a private party or purchase a good or service and,” Heritage scholars Randy Barnett, Nathaniel Stewart, and Todd F. Gaziano wrote.
“Therefore, because this claim of power by Congress would literally be without precedent, it could only be upheld if the Supreme Court is willing to create a new constitutional doctrine.”
As this story went to press, it was reported that the Senate had rejected along partisan lines, 60-39, a Republican measure to examine whether the health care mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance is constitutional.
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Sen. Begich (D-Alaska) follows below:
CNSNews.com: “Where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to make an individual health [insurance] mandate?”
Senator Begich: “It think it’s just more stall tactics by the Republicans on the issue of health care, providing health care for millions of Americans. It’s a shame that they use these procedures to continue to delay the process. I think there’s no merit to what they have to claim.”