Appeals court: Is health-care reform like broccoli?
Attorneys challenging Obama's health-care reform law said that Congress cannot 'force us to buy a private product and say it is for our own good,' whether health insurance or broccoli.
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Is Congress regulating inactivity?
Mathew Staver, a lawyer representing Liberty University, told the judges that Congress’s power under the commerce clause is limited to regulating economic activities – like growing wheat or growing and using your own marijuana.Skip to next paragraph
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In contrast, he said, the individual mandate penalizes Americans for their inactivity – their failure to purchase health insurance.
“The Constitution doesn’t talk about activity,” Judge Diana Motz responded.
“I think it is inherent when you understand what commerce is,” the lawyer replied. He said the federal government has never before extended its authority over interstate commerce to regulate idleness.
“If you removed activity as a component there would be no limit to what Congress could do,” he said. Congress could order Americans to purchase and eat broccoli because it might help reduce national health care costs, he said.
Cuccinelli echoed the same point in his press conference.
“If we cross the constitutional line with health care now – where the government can force us to buy a private product and say it is for our own good – then we have given the government the power to force us to buy other private products, such as cars, gym memberships, or even asparagus," said Virginia. "The government’s power to intrude on our lives ‘for our own good’ will be virtually unlimited.”
Katyal urged the judges to reject arguments made by opposing lawyers that the individual mandate was an attempt to regulate inactivity rather than economic activity.
“Congress is regulating activity – the activity is participation in the health care markets,” he said.
What is being regulated, he said, is the method of payment for a service – health insurance – that everyone will eventually need and use.
31 cases attack the health-care reform law
After the hearing, Cuccinelli declined to predict how the judges might rule. He said he is hopeful a decision may be announced this summer.
If the Fourth Circuit rules against him, he said he would appeal to the US Supreme Court.
The two cases are among five high-profile cases challenging the health care reform law that are currently in the federal appeals courts.
In addition to the two Fourth Circuit cases, arguments are expected in early June at the Atlanta-based Eleventh Circuit and the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit. A case is also pending at the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.
Overall, Cuccinelli said, 31 cases have been filed in various federal courts attacking the health care reform law.