Members of Congress channel John McEnroe

When a reporter for last Thursday asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., where in the Constitution Congress is delegated the specific power to order Americans to buy health insurance — a mandate included in both the House and Senate versions of Obamacare — Ms. Pelosi responded: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

“Yes, yes I am,” the reporter for replied.

Ms. Pelosi shook her head and took a question from another reporter, never giving an answer. Her press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, then advised that asking the speaker of the House where the Constitution authorized Congress to mandate that individual Americans buy health insurance was not a “serious question.”

“You can put this on the record,” said Elshami. “That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question.”

Other members of Congress seemed even more confused by the inquiry.

“Well, that’s under certainly the laws of the — protect the health, welfare of the country,” said Sen. Roland Burris, Barack Obama’s appointed replacement to the U.S. Senate, in answer to the same question. “That’s under the Constitution. We’re not even dealing with any constitutionality here. … What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.” (

In fact, the word “health” appears nowhere in the Constitution.

Later on Thursday, followed up on the question, e-mailing their queries to Speaker Pelosi and her spokesman, Mr. Elshami.

“Where specifically does the Constitution authorize Congress to force Americans to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance?” asked the speaker’s office. “If it is the Speaker’s belief that there is a provision in the Constitution that does give Congress this power, does she believe the Constitution in any way limits the goods and services Congress can force an individual to purchase?” asked. “If so, what is that limit?”

Elshami responded by sending a Sept. 16 press release from the Speaker’s office entitled, “Health Insurance Reform, Daily Mythbuster: ‘Constitutionality of Health Insurance Reform.’” The press release states that Congress has “broad power to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce. … There is no constitutional problem with these provisions.”

Indeed, Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce — in order to prevent the states from blocking such commerce with high interstate tariffs or outright bans on the sale or shipment of goods or services across state lines.

One “health care reform” that would actually be useful is for Congress to invoke the Interstate Commerce clause, barring Nevada or Massachusetts from setting restrictive and expensive “coverage mandates” when a resident of one of those states decides to buy a cheaper, “bare bones” insurance policy issued from Georgia or Kentucky.

But that comes nowhere near describing what Obamacare actually proposes to do.

At present, each of the five health care overhaul proposals being considered in Congress would require every American adult to buy health insurance. Any person defying this mandate would be required to pay a penalty to the IRS, which is not a part of the judiciary. What does that have to do with “interstate commerce”?

In the 1925 case Linder v. United States, Dr. Charles Linder had been convicted for prescribing morphine and cocaine to addicts, which the federal government held was not a legitimate medical practice. Dr. Linder appealed, and the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction, holding the federal government had no such power to regulate the practice of medicine.

“Obviously, direct control of medical practice in the states is beyond the power of the federal government,” wrote Justice James Clark McReynolds for the unanimous court. Even “Incidental regulation of such practice by Congress through a taxing act cannot extend to matters plainly inappropriate and unnecessary to reasonable enforcement of a revenue measure.”

The Linder case is often described as having been partially “overruled or superseded.” But the Constitution has never been amended to authorize such federal regulation. In fact, the rationale of the Linder case was used to stop the Department of Justice from interfering with Oregon’s assisted suicide laws in the 2006 case Gonzales v. Oregon.

The question is inescapable: Even if we assume these delegates arrive in Washington in a state of honesty and grace, only to be corrupted later, why is it that — required on their very first day to swear a solemn oath to “protect and defend the Constitution,” not one of them has ever said, “Well, hold on there. No, I don’t think I will agree to let my powers be bound by some 200-year-old scribbling that was supposed to give us a ‘government of limited powers, specifically delegated.’ The only thing I’m here to ‘protect and defend’ is the power of Congress to do anything we damn well please”?

Instead, presumably, Majority Leader Pelosi and her staff — and senators like Mr. Burriss — plan to deal with any ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, rebuking Congress for trying for the first time in history to require every American adult to buy some good or service against their will — with a disbelieving glare, accompanied by the words “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

4 Comments to “Members of Congress channel John McEnroe”

  1. MamaLiberty Says:

    Who will be the next Carl Drega….

    Molon labe!

  2. Members of Congress channel John McEnroe at Bydio Says:

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  3. Eric C. Sanders Says:

    There is a reason “public education” – supervised by the U.S. Department of Education – has been producing illiterates, and this essay points that reason up: when the electorate at large cannot read the laws of the land, the laws of the land become whatever the jackbooted thugs are ordered to enforce.

  4. George Rusling Says:

    Apparently Madam Pelosi (like many other Congress-critters) has not read and does not regard the Constitution as a restraint on her desire to do whatever she pleases. Are any of us surprised?

    Write your States Governor and inquire whether he or she is aware of the fact that the Federal Government is THEIR creation and agent! Their answers might be enlightening…