The above photo isn’t from yesterday’s debate in South Carolina. But the look on Gov. Romney’s face reflects pretty well what I was thinking during that debate when she told Princeton professor Robert George that it violates the U.S. Constitution for state governments–not just the feds–to require people to buy health insurance.
Adam J. White elaborates on the Weekly Standard‘s website:
Michele Bachmann knows that the Constitution prohibits the states from imposing health-insurance mandates. She just doesn’t know what part of the Constitution does this. But she’s open to suggestions.
That was the bottom line of her interesting exchange yesterday, at the South Carolina GOP presidential candidates forum, with Robert George.
At a previous debate in Iowa, Bachmann argued that the Constitution bars not just the federal government, but also the states, from imposing individual health-insurance mandates. As she said in Iowa, a mandate “is clearly an unconstitutional action, whether it’s done at the federal level or whether it’s the state level.”
Her political motivation is obvious — she is stirring up Tea Party resentment against Romneycare’s individual mandate — but the greater implications of her argument are much more intriguing.
Simply put — and as I sketched out in a WEEKLY STANDARD essay after the Iowa debate — Bachmann’s argument is a sharp break from the last several decades of conservative legal argument. Since the 1970s, conservatives have argued that the Constitution strictly limits the federal government’s powers, not the states’ powers. And so (as Mitt Romney argues), a federal individual mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, but a similar state mandate is perfectly lawful under the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.
Read the whole thing. I like Rep. Bachmann, but especially for an attorney, this didn’t seem to me to be top-shelf legal reasoning.