Rep. John Lewis Says Declaration's ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ Language and 14th Amendment Authorize Congress to Force People to Buy Health Insurance

January 19, 2011 - 4:06 PM

(CNSNews.com) -Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said on Tuesday that the government should require individuals to buy health insurance and cited the Preamble to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence’s “pursuit of happiness” language and the 14th Amendment as the sources of Congress’ authority to enact such a mandate.

“I think people should be required to get health insurance. We require people to get insurance for their automobile state by state but the federal government has an obligation to encourage by law, moral persuasion, to get people to get health insurance,” Lewis told CNSNews.com on Tuesday after a House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing in opposition to Republican efforts to repeal the health-care law enacted last year.

One of the primary complaints Republicans have had about the health-care law is that it forces individuals to buy health insurance, which entails a power that many Republicans argue the Constitution does not give to Congress. Currently, 27 states are suing the federal government, arguing that the health-care law is in fact unconstitutional.

CNSNews.com also asked Lewis what part of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to require individuals to buy health insurance.

“Well, when you start off with the Preamble of the Constitution, you talk about the pursuit of happiness," said Lewis. "You go to the 14th Amendment--it’s equal protection under the law and we have not repealed the 14th Amendment. People have a right to have health care. It’s not a privilege but a right."

The Preamble of the Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Rep. John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) AP Photo

The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Lewis also predicted that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide that the individual mandate in the health care law in constitutional.

“I think when it gets to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will rule that it is legal and constitutional,” he said.