Constitution Day Event Focuses on Tax Cuts, Terrorism, Obamacare

By Nick Ballasy | September 20, 2010 | 9:10 AM EDT

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Washington ( - Conservatives repeated their ongoing call for limited government, lower taxes and the repeal of the Democrats’ health care law at a “Constitution Day Celebration” in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2008, told that the Bush tax cuts for individuals making over $250,000 should be extended by the Democrat-controlled Congress.

“Absolutely – tax cuts for every American, really. It shouldn’t become an issue [of] ‘Gee, you’re going to get a tax cut if you make X dollars but if you make X-plus-one, you don’t get it,’” Barr told at the conference sponsored by Hillsdale College.

“It ought to be based on the notion demonstrated historically, that when you reduce taxes, you actually increase revenues because you actually increase economic activity.”

Barr participated in a panel discussion entitled “Civil Liberties and Islamic Terrorism” with John Yoo, an attorney and former Bush Justice Department official who provided legal guidance on the Bush administration’s interrogation techniques.

Yoo said it was a “terrible mistake” for President Barack Obama’s Justice Department to read the Christmas Day attacker, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, his Miranda rights when he was taken into custody.

“It shows how the Obama administration really does think this is a crime and not a war,” Yoo said. “The idea that you would read Miranda rights to terrorists that you are capturing all over the world harms our ability to get intelligence, and it treats them like common criminals, which they are not,” Yoo told

In keeping with the Constitution Day theme, the keynote speaker at the event, Dr. Charles R. Kesler, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, focused on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law. He told that the law should be repealed “on a number of grounds.”

“These 159 new agencies, bureaus, commissions and so forth that it creates represent massive delegation of legislative power to unelected people, bureaucrats, experts of one kind or another, and that’s fundamentally a violation of the separation of powers and it’s really a violation of the spirit of republican governments,” he said.

“So, for those reasons among others -- in addition to the [individual] mandate and this question of the Commerce Clause -- are ample justifications for striking it down.”

Kesler elaborated on invoking the Commerce Clause to justify the constitutionality of requiring Americans to purchase health insurance.

“If you are not engaging in economic activity, how can that be regulated? You know, can they make us buy fruits and vegetables and eat them because it’s, you know – they’re part of the stream of commerce just like health care is part of the stream of commerce? If they can, then there’s really no limit to what Congress can do.”

So far, 22 states have sued the federal government over the individual mandate in the health care law. Kesler says that if the case goes to the Supreme Court, it will “probably all depend upon Justice [Anthony] Kennedy.”

“Even on the conservative side, people like Justice Scalia, who support judicial restraint, for them that means, in most economic cases, letting the democratically elected branch pass laws with minimum interference from the court,” he told

Kesler said the “great question” for the Supreme Court will be whether the new health care law is a case of Congress using its “rightful discretion” and therefore the Supreme Court –- for reasons of judicial restraint –- should “stay out of it,” or whether Obamacare is “an unconstitutional act by Congress which is not a proper occasion for judicial restraint but rather for striking down the act.”

Kesler said if he had to bet, “I would probably bet that Scalia would go for overturning it, but who knows with [Justice Anthony Kennedy]?” Kennedy has emerged as a swing vote on the Supreme Court.