Boehner: ‘I’m Not a Constitutional Lawyer, But I Think It's Wrong to Mandate the American People to Have to Do Anything'

By Matt Cover | October 22, 2009 | 7:06 PM EDT

( – When asked by on Thursday where the Constitution authorizes Congress to order Americans to buy health insurance--a mandate included in both the House and Senate versions of the health care bill--House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) said that he was "not a laywer" but that he thought such mandates were wrong.

When asked by about the constitutional source of Congress's authority to order Americans to buy health insurance earlier on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had responded with a question of her own: "Are you serious?" asked Boehner: “Is that a serious question for people to ask and, if so, is that something Congress has the constitutional authority to do?”
Boehner said: “Well, I’m not a lawyer and I’m certainly not a constitutional lawyer, but I think it’s wrong to mandate that the American people have to do anything.

"You know, one of the things that’s great about America is that we have the freedom to do anything that we want, as long as it doesn’t infringe on somebody else’s freedom,” said Boehner.

“As a result, the more government takes from the American people, the more regulations it writes, the more mandates it provides means less freedom for the American people,” said Boehner. “Less freedom means less opportunity for our kids and grandkids, and that’s not what I came here to do.”
Currently, each of the five health care overhaul proposals being considered in Congress would force every American adult to buy health insurance. Any person who defies this mandate would be required to pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service.
“A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action,” said a 1994 report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. “The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”
“An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique,” reads the report. “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.”