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From CNS News, Hoyer Says Constitution’s ‘General Welfare’ Clause Empowers Congress to Order Americans to Buy Health Insurance

preamble_to_the_united_states_constitution

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the individual health insurance mandates included in every health reform bill, which require Americans to have insurance, were “like paying taxes.” He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”

The Congressional Budget Office, however, has stated in the past that a mandate forcing Americans to buy health insurance would be an “unprecedented form of federal action,” and that the “government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”…

Is there any limit to Congress’s power in his view?

CNSNews.com also asked Hoyer if there is a limit to what Congress can mandate that Americans purchase and whether there is anything that specifically could not be mandated to purchase. Hoyer said that eventually the Supreme Court would find a limit to Congress’ power, adding that mandates that unfairly favored one person or company over another would obviously be unconstitutional.

“I’m sure the [Supreme] Court will find a limit,” Hoyer said. “For instance, if we mandated that you buy General Motors’ automobiles, I believe that would be far beyond our constitutional responsibility and indeed would violate the Due Process Clause as well – in terms of equal treatment to automobile manufacturers.”

Hoyer said that the insurance mandate was constitutional because Congress is not forcing Americans to buy one particular policy, just any health insurance policy.

Well, that’s a relief.  I was starting to think I lived in a police state.  More at the link.

Not just for snark anymore.  As Health Care Deadline Looms, Congress Leaves Key Reform Details to Administration

With its self-imposed deadline for health care reform only four weeks away, major health care overhaul proposals in both chambers of Congress leave key details up to unelected Obama administration officials, giving the administration the power to ultimately define what health care reform will look like.

In fact, bills working their way through both chambers give the administration broad powers over a key “reform” component — health insurance “exchanges,” a new national purchasing pool from which individuals and businesses could choose health insurance from a range of options, including private plans and a government alternative.

The health insurance exchanges would be run by the administration, allowing Obama administration officials and the bureaucrats they employ to design and run a permanent government health care bureaucracy designed to act as part insurer, part enforcer for the new exchanges.

Exactly where in the Constitution does it give the Federal government, not to mention unelected bureaucrats, the power to determine what health care citizens will receive?  If that question popped into your mind while reading this post, check out HR 450, the Enumerated Powers Act.

From the Tenth Amendment Center, Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them

The Democrats’ unconstitutional attempt to give Washington, DC, a seat in the House of Representatives through legislation is out of gas.  Why?  Not enough members are willing to concede that the 2nd Amendment applies to residents of the city.  From the Washington Times, Gun provision foils D.C. voting rights bill

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said the bill was on hold indefinitely, conceding that Democratic Party leaders are stymied by an amendment to the measure that would scale back the city’s tough anti-gun laws.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to move the bill at this time,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill.

House Democratic leaders are torn between championing D.C. voting rights and fighting a rollback of gun laws backed by the National Rifle Association, which enjoys widespread support from Republicans and conservative Blue Dog Democrats.

…The amendment by Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, would have overturned the city’s gun laws, which essentially ban ownership of handguns and are among the toughest gun control measures in the country.

Strange thing, isn’t it, when the people who claim DC residents have a right that doesn’t exist under the Constitution balk at ensuring them a right that does.  It’s almost as if it’s not about individual rights at all.

If Obama’s guy gets his way.  U.S. Courts Should ‘Download’ International Law into Domestic Law, Obama Nominee Says

Harold Koh, nominated by President Barack Obama to be the State Department’s top legal adviser, once argued that U.S. federal court judges – including the Supreme Court – are the “critical link” between international and domestic law and play a critical role in bringing international norms into force as domestic law.

Koh, currently dean of the Yale Law School, explained that his concept of “transnationalism” was the “downloading” of international laws and customs into domestic law, whether through the legislative process or through federal courts’ use of international law in interpreting the Constitution of the United States.

How does international law become part of America’s?

“Over the decades, American judges have helped internalize international legal norms into U.S. domestic law through a range of interpretive techniques.”

Among these techniques are “(1) constitutional interpretation, (2) treaty interpretation, (3) incorporation of customary international law into domestic law [and] (4) direct statutory interpretation of statutes [laws] that expressly incorporate international law.”

Amnesty International should help determine what laws govern us, according to him:

“[K]ey agents in promoting this process of internalization include transnational norm entrepreneurs (NGOs), governmental norm sponsors (government agencies), transnational issue networks, and interpretive communities (courts).”

Transnational networks, according to Koh, are created when governments and NGOs – groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – work together to create international norms. Courts – Koh’s “interpretive communities” – then incorporate these norms into domestic law.

The Supreme Court is divided between the transnationalists and the unenlightened cave-dwellers:

He even divided the U.S. Supreme Court into “transnationalist” and “nationalist” camps, saying that unlike the transnationalists, the court’s nationalist justices favored “yesterday’s issues” such as federalism, abortion, and religion.

“The transnationalist faction – which includes Justices Breyer, Souter Stevens, Ginsburg, and at times, Justice Kennedy – tends to follow an approach suggested by Justice Blackmun in the late 1980s: that U.S. courts must look beyond national interest” and instead “consider if there is a course that furthers, rather than impedes, the development of an ordered international system.”

And here I thought the Supreme Court was supposed to decide on the constitutionality of laws, as in American Constitution.  Live and learn.

“The transnationalists believe in and promote the blending of international and domestic law, while nationalists continue to maintain a rigid separation of domestic law from foreign law,” he wrote. “The transnationalists view domestic courts as having a critical role to play in domesticating international law, while nationalists argue instead that only the political branches can internalize international law.”

So, what do we need Congress for, then?

“He espouses a fairly radical theory that the U.S. Constitution, and the laws that flow from it, must only be one source of jurisprudence for American courts as they seek to decide cases,” said Gaffney.

“This is a staggering departure from the view that we have a system of laws and they’re made by people who are elected by the people of this country to represent them, and that they are signed into law by a president of the United S[t]ates who is elected,” said Gaffney. “This is a radical idea, a radical agenda.”

Want to observe the results of this sort of system?  Look at Great Britain.  The European Union makes at least 80% of the laws governing the English people, which has made their Parliament meaningless.  It’s true that they can vote for their few Members of European Parliament, but they have essentially zero influence on the body and the legislation it spews out.  There’s no chance of any kind of Tea Party movement succeeding there, because there is no political accountability.  Their political blogosphere sucks, too.

Europe can keep it’s system, and the President can keep his nominee.

Who’s pulling Treasury Secretary Geithner’s strings?  White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

On Jan. 20, Timothy Geithner took control of the Treasury Department, directing the government’s response to the financial crisis.

Within three weeks, the White House tightened its grip, alarmed by the poor reaction to Mr. Geithner’s performance during the rollout of his rescue plan, government officials say. Since then, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been so involved in the workings of the Treasury that “Rahm wants it” has become an unofficial mantra among some at the Treasury, according to government officials.

Mr. Geithner is fully on board:

Mr. Geithner said White House involvement is critical to the success of the financial rescue, in part because the popular president can help sell the plan to the public. “I made a judgment…that to do this right, we had to have a fully integrated approach,” Mr. Geithner said in an interview. “The president’s capacity to lay out for the nation and the world a path through this crisis is as essential as everything we’re going to do.”

More people to spread the blame for failure to, as well.  Way to avoid being the only scapegoat, Timmy.  Who says he’s stupid?

Not letting a Constitutional requirement come between friends:

At the president’s urging, Mr. Emanuel began to take a close interest in helping Mr. Geithner, a longtime friend. “There was an understanding that the chain of communication hadn’t been great,” said one official. “I think Rahm felt personally for Tim that there was a lot of responsibility to go around.”

What a selfless guy, that Rahm, willing to do the job no Senate-confirmed Treasury Secretary will do. Another unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat subverting our representative democracy.

H/T Daily Beast

Probably like many other Tea Party supporters, I’m at the point of wondering, what next? A lot of the big Tea Party sites are soliciting ideas.  I’ve seen a lot of emphasis put on influencing government at the local level, from simply getting engaged in the debate, to actively letting the local politicos know what you think, to encouraging people to run for office themselves.  All are terrific ideas, and have a big potential for success.  But it would be good to have something to aim at on the state and national level.

Randy Barnett of WSJ has an idea on which the Tea Party movement and state sovereignty support groups can focus some of their energy.  The Case for a Federalism Amendment
How the Tea Partiers can make Washington pay attention.

While well-intentioned, such symbolic resolutions [declaring sovereignty] are not likely to have the slightest impact on the federal courts, which long ago adopted a virtually unlimited construction of Congressional power. But state legislatures have a real power under the Constitution by which to resist the growth of federal power: They can petition Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution.

Article V provides that, “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states,” Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments.” Before becoming law, any amendments produced by such a convention would then need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

An amendments convention is feared because its scope cannot be limited in advance. The convention convened by Congress to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation produced instead the entirely different Constitution under which we now live. Yet it is precisely the fear of a runaway convention that states can exploit to bring Congress to heel.

Here’s how: State legislatures can petition Congress for a convention to propose a specific amendment. Congress can then avert a convention by proposing this amendment to the states, before the number of petitions reaches two-thirds. It was the looming threat of state petitions calling for a convention to provide for the direct election of U.S. senators that induced a reluctant Congress to propose the 17th Amendment, which did just that.

I’m all for bringing Congress to heel.  What does he suggest?  Either repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, the one that allows a Federal income tax, and have Congress replace it with some kind of consumer tax, or include that as part of a Federalism Amendment.  He lists proposed sections of this amendment and gives his reasons for including them.  You should read the article to get the whole picture of what he proposes.

Definitely an idea worth considering.  While I enjoy posting news about state sovereignty initiatives, I’m not sure that, by themselves, they can provoke any real change.  This sort of thing would give those resolutions the real-world bite they lack and a national platform on which to promote the principles underlying the Tea Party movement.

H/T Instapundit

From CNS News, Republicans Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Protect Parental Rights

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) on Tuesday introduced a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at bolstering parental rights in the face of government intrusion.

The Parental Rights Amendment, the latest in a series of similar proposals, would establish in the U.S. Constitution that parents – not government or any other organization – have “a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit,” Hoekstra’s office said in a statement.

“The Parental Rights Amendment would help stop the assault on parental rights, whether it is an assault from Congress, from the courts or the U.N.,” Hoekstra told CNSNews.com on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen rights that have traditionally been reserved for parents being taken by schools and other institutions,” Hoekstra added. “That’s a mistake.”

The proposed amendment:

Section 1: “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.”

Section 2: “Neither the United States nor any State shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.”

Section 3: “No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.”

What a novel idea, that the people responsible for child-rearing should have the authority to do it, without undue interference from the state or some global body.  It’s a sad statement that we’ve gone so far down the nanny-state road that this kind of thing has to even be brought up.

In the latest installment of “AIG And Me” the House passed a bill today to punish the AIG people receiving legally contracted bonuses.  The vote was 328-93.

Now that they’ve got all that righteous indignation off their chests, the question is, is that legal?  The Heritage Foundation says The AIG Clawback: Possibly Unconstitutional, Doubtlessly Imprudent

As regards income due to AIG employees, this measure is a punitive one, intended to punish the company’s employees and executives for conduct that Congress and the public believe demonstrates greed and selfishness. This raises serious constitutional concerns. First, it may be tantamount to a bill of attainder, with respect to those individuals, and so prohibited under the Constitution. Second, it could constitute an unlawful taking of property.

But whether or not the measure is legally permissible, it is bad policy because it injects massive uncertainty and risk into compensation agreements at a time when the expense of doing so is likely to be great.

What is a bill of attainder?  “The Court has stated that a bill of attainder is any law that inflicts punishment on “named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group” without a judicial trial.  The punishment may be of a criminal nature, such as imprisonment or death, or it may be civil, such as denying an individual compensation.”

With this foray into political theater Congress is trampling all over the Constitution:

Article I, § 9, of the Constitution states: “No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” The prohibition has several purposes. First, it enforces the Constitution’s separation of powers, thereby protecting individual rights. The judiciary, not the legislature, is the branch that judges the application of the law to specific individuals and entities, resolving the disputes before it on an individualized basis and ensuring that each case is afforded due process. For Congress to adjudge specific parties guilty and due certain punishment would necessarily intrude on this power. The result, as the Framers well knew from the country’s colonial experience, would be legislative tyranny: Britain’s parliament regularly enacted laws naming or describing particular individuals and sentencing them to death for some asserted infraction, usually treason.

Second, building on the structural purpose, the prohibition ensures that those subject to punishment will be accorded due process. Punishment meted out by the legislature is followed not by process but by enforcement: Property is seized, liberty curtailed, life taken. Our civil and criminal justice systems, however, guarantee broad procedural rights meant to protect the individual from unjust government action…

Third, the prohibition is an essential part of the regulation of the legislative branch to produce “sound legislation.” As the Framers knew quite well, legislators can be whipped into a froth by public sentiment or influential parties seeking to further their private ends. They are sometimes too ready to write law that upsets settled rights and expectations in life, liberty, or property…

There’s a lot more on this subject at the link.

The Founders were smart people.  Their brilliant system of government, which guaranteed the most freedom to the most people, is being unraveled before our eyes.  That’s the real crime.