Rep. Burgess: Government Can Force Us to Buy General Motors Products If Obamacare Mandate Upheld in Court
March 26, 2010 - 3:47 PMRepresentative Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told CNSNews.com that if the mandate in the health care law requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or be penalized is upheld by the courts, the federal government could mandate anything, such as requiring all Americans to purchase a General Motors car.
On Capitol Hill, CNSNews.com asked Representative Burgess, “The Congressional Budget Office has said that never before in the history of the United States has the federal government mandated that any one buy a specific good or service and, of course, the bill includes the individual mandate. Is there a part of the Constitution that you think gives Congress the authority to mandate individuals to purchase health insurance?”
Representative Burgess, himself a doctor, said, “No, I personally do not, and I think that is exactly right. Never before in the history of this country have we had the ability to coerce American citizens to purchase something and then invoke the Commerce clause after we coerce that purchase.”
“It just flies in the face of what a free society should be, so I’m perfectly comfortable with the attorneys general bringing suit against this bill,” said Burgess. “I think it’s the appropriate thing to do. Plus, you also have the equal-protection business of some states being more equal than others and, really, it should be equals among equals, not some states getting special deals to buy off a vote to get the bill passed.”
CNSNews.com also asked Burgess, “If the federal government mandates that you have to purchase health insurance, is there any legal commodity that the federal government cannot require individuals to purchase?”
“That’s the next step and what else?” said Burgess. “Could the federal government require all of us to purchase a General Motors product? And the answer is yes.”
“If this mandate is ruled, upheld by the courts, it opens the door for all kinds of mischief by the federal government,” he said. “We’ll be better off not opening this door or closing it very, very quickly.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told CNSNews.com that he “applauds” the states that are stepping up and taking legal action against the federal government. So far, 13 attorneys general have sued the federal government over the individual mandate in the health care law.
“I think the mandate is unconstitutional so I applaud the states [that] are going to step up and spend some resources and take this to the courts because I believe it’s unconstitutional,” said Chaffetz. “You have something like 37 states that are filing some sort of lawsuit or another, so, including Utah, and I applaud that.”
Chaffetz was also asked if he thinks there is a limit to what Congress can mandate individuals to do.
“Yeah, I think never before have we seen the federal government mandate that you have to actually purchase,” he said. “You know, I understand they need to tax, but to actually purchase something? I think that steps over the line and I hope the states are victorious in their suits.”
Chaffetz continued: “That’s the worry, that if they can get away with this, the federal government can get away with who knows what? And that’s where there’s got to be limits and balance on this, and clearly the Constitution, I don’t think, you know, allows this to happen. So I hope this country makes the right decision. I really do.”
On the other hand, Democratic Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) said it is “not likely” the individual mandate will be overturned.
“I’m not a lawyer,” he told CNSNews.com. “I’m told by some pretty smart lawyers that the chances of states overturning this are not likely. The federal law will be pre-eminent but that’s why they make courts. We’ll have an opportunity to find out.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal government has never before mandated that Americans buy any good or service. In 1994, when Congress was considering a universal health care plan formulated by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, the CBO studied the plan’s provision that would have forced individuals to buy health insurance and determined it was an unprecedented act.
The CBO stated: “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.”