A legitimate fight
On Sunday, March 21, the Senate passed a historic piece of legislation and sent it to the president for his signature. The following day, the attorney general in Florida filed, and subsequently 18 other attorneys general across the country joined in, a suit alleging that several provisions of the so-called "health care reform" law violate the Constitution. Among those attorneys general are Washington's Rob McKenna, who filed against the blustering objections of Governor Gregoire, and our own Lawrence Wasden, working cooperatively with Governor Otter, who has historically opposed such unwisely reactionary and populist legislation (see the PATRIOT Act).
The lawsuit has brought a backlash for a variety of reasons. Many are angry because they are misinformed and think that the law is wise policy. It isn't, but the policy reasons for opposing this behemoth change have nothing to do with this lawsuit. Those who understand that the lawsuit has grounds based in Constitutional law may reasonably disagree with the outcome of the suit, but not its legitimacy.
Appallingly, a few politicians with legal backgrounds have decided to assault this lawsuit as frivolous. In Washington state, Governor Gregoire may end up facing Rob McKenna in her next election. If so, she will wish she had been on the side of the Constitution. Here in Idaho, First District Congressman Walt Minnick, who called the lawsuit "silly," among other things, most certainly will regret that position.
Minnick, a Harvard Law grad, apparently cannot distinguish between the historical power granted by the Commerce Clause and the new Obama law. In the most extreme instance, the Commerce Clause gives the government the power to regulate those who choose to participate in commerce. The Obama law requires every single individual to purchase a product... health insurance. There is a difference between regulating a stream of commerce and requiring every breathing person to enter the stream of commerce. It is the difference, for example, between giving the government the power to regulate the car I buy through safety standards, etc., and giving the government the power to tell me that I must buy a car.
The Obama law, if upheld, would create an entire new classification of unprecedented federal power over the individual. A disregard for this glaring legal distinction shows one of two things: Either a fundamental misunderstanding of the power granted to the federal government, or a political agenda to expand that power. Neither is acceptable for a Congressman from Idaho.
Minnick calls this lawsuit a waste of money, but protecting individual rights is not a luxury for financially prosperous times. For Minnick to belittle the efforts of the lawsuit as an "emotional response" is a terrifying testament to his view of the role of government, and implies that anger precludes a legitimate legal argument. For those Idahoans who believe that we have sent a conservative democrat to D.C., Minnick has allowed us to see that his attempt to paint himself as a reasonable centrist was a faade.
The Obama law is a terrible law on every level. On a policy level, it has far more to do with creating and maintaining bureaucratic jobs by exponentially expanding massive inefficiency than removing barriers to health care. On a legal level, it is unconstitutional. We are lucky to live in a state where our leaders, like Senators Risch and Crapo, understand that.
When asked recently why his view of the Constitution was so disparate from Obama's, Rob McKenna replied that his view was more in line with "tenured, published professors" at the University of Chicago where Obama taught and McKenna studied. It is Minnick's job to protect our Constitution, not attack attempts to preserve it.
Luke Malek is a home-grown Kootenai County boy currently in a voluntary exile in pursuit of a law degree that he hopes will empower him to battle objectionable compliance with the status quo.