As ‘Legislative Body,’ Congress Has Constitutional Authority to Require People Buy Health Insurance, Says Congressman Abercrombie

November 6, 2009 - 2:28 PM
Because it is the  "legislative body in the country," Congress has the constitutional authority to require that individual Americans buy health insurance policies, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) told CNSNews.com.
Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com)  – Because it is the  “legislative body in the country,” Congress has the constitutional authority to require that individual Americans buy health insurance policies, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) told CNSNews.com on Thursday.
 
“We are the legislative body in the country,” Abercrombie said.  “Just read the Constitution. I have. I carry a copy with me everywhere in my bag.”
 
He added, “We are the constitutionally designated legislative body, the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
 
Abercrombie made his remarks in response to the question of precisely where in the Constitution is Congress given the authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance. (See transcript below.)
 

 
 
The health care bills in Congress – House and Senate – mandate that all individuals in the country would have to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
 
When asked by CNSNews.com whether he supports “mandating that individuals get health insurance under the health care bill,” Abercrombie said: “Everybody should have it by right. Generally, when you talk about mandate, if, to the degree that that’s a right or is defined as a right, is it should be a right for everyone to have good health care in America.” 
 
The 2,000-plus-page version of the Democrats’ health care legislation is supposed to be voted on in the House of Representatives on Saturday. However, as of Friday afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was reported as saying the vote may not occur until Sunday or Monday.
 
As previously reported by CNSNews.com, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to the question about Congress’ constitutional authority to mandate health insurance by saying, “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
 

 
In addition, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told CNSNews.com that “nobody” questions Congress’ authority to impose the individual health care mandate.
 

 
However, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), when interviewed on CNSNews.com’s “Online with Terry Jeffrey,” said, “I think there’s a real constitutional issue there,” in reference to Congress mandating that individuals purchase health insurance, adding that he did not think the idea was “constitutionally sound.”
 

 
In 1994, when the Clinton administration attempted to pass universal health care, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be 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. 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.”
 
The transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) is as follows:
 
CNSNews.com: “My question to you is, do you support mandating that individuals get health insurance under the health care bill?”
 
Congressman Abercrombie: “Everybody should have it by right. Generally, when you talk about mandate, if, to the degree that that’s a right or is defined as a right, is it should be a right for everyone to have good health care in America.”
 
CNSNews.com: “Okay, sir, and where in the Constitution does it give Congress the authority to mandate that individuals get health care?”
 
Congressman Abercrombie: “We’re the, we’re the letter, we are the legislative body in the country. Just read the Constitution. I have. I carry a copy with me everywhere in my bag. We’re the, we’re, we are the constitutionally designated legislative body, the House of Representatives and the Senate.”