Archive for June, 2012

Next step: Repeal the individual mandate because it is unconstitutional

Posted by on Jun 29 2012 | congress, Constitutional History, Equal Protection, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper, Politics, Popular Constitutionalism, Presidency, Separation of Powers, supreme court, Taxes, Taxing and Spending Clause, Uncategorized

McCulloch v. Maryland had a very good day at the Supreme Court yesterday, with NFIB relying on and applying McCulloch‘s rules for when an enactment violates the Necessary and Proper Clause. What happened after the McCulloch decision also shows the next steps in battle over the individual mandate, as I suggest in an essay this morning for National Review Online.

In refusing to hold the Second Bank of the United States unconstitutional, the McCulloch Court gave Congress broad latitude in Congress’s own evaluation of whether the Bank was “necessary” in a constitutional sense. Relying on and quoting McCulloch, President Andrew Jackson made his own judgment of constitutional necessity when he vetoed the recharter of the Bank in 1832. After a titanic political struggle, the Bank was gone, and a new term created by Jackson, “equal protection,” had become part of what the American People were coming to believe the Constitution was supposed to mean.

President Jackson dealt the Bank a fatal blow by withdrawing federal deposits from the Bank, and moving them to state banks. President Romney can follow Jackson’s lead on his first day in office, instructing the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the waiver powers in the ACA statute to issue waivers to everyone for the individual mandate. Because the individual mandate is (supposedly) a tax, it can then be repealed through the budget reconciliation process, which cannot be filibustered.

I predict that the individual mandate will never mandate anyone. Yet the mandate will be long remembered as one of the most consequential laws enacted by a Congress. The result of the “bank battle” was that even though a central bank was judicially permissible, central banking was politically toxic for the rest of the century. The “mandate battle” may have the same effect in deterring any future thoughts of congressionally-imposed mandates. (Putting aside the obvious exception for mandates that have a solid basis in the constitutional text, such as jury service.)

The enactment of the mandate has also significantly increased the probability that the next Supreme Court appointments will be made by a President and confirmed by a Senate which denounces the mandate as unconstitutional, and that the new Justices will be the kind who are inclined to vigorously enforce the many strong constitutional limits on congressional over-reaching which are articulated in NFIB v. Sebelius.

I would have preferred that the mandate had met its end yesterday morning, but the fact that the mandate will have to be finished off by the People in November and their elected officials in January may lead to even better long-term results for advocates of a constitutionally limited federal government.

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Is the individual mandate a “tax” according to the original meaning?

Posted by on Jun 29 2012 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Individual Mandate, Originalism, supreme court, Taxing and Spending Clause

Absolutely not. Rob Natelson explains why in this 27 minute podcast from iVoices.org.

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NFIB as Marbury

Posted by on Jun 29 2012 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, federalism, Individual Mandate, Politics, Spending Clause, supreme court, Taxing and Spending Clause, Unconstitutional Conditions

My article yesterday for Scotusblog discussed the tremendous importance of the Court’s 7-2 use of the non-coercion rule to limit Spending Clause violations of State sovereignty and independence. The rule has been around ever since Steward Machine Company v. Davis (1937), but NFIB v. Sebelius is the first decision by any federal court to find that a conditional congressional grant violates the rule.

The folks who think that the “evolving Constitution” completed its evolution in 1937-42, and that everything the Court did during those years must be applied today with the broadest possible reading, should be especially pleased with the NFIB Court’s vigorous enforcement of a very important New Deal precedent.

My essay argues that the application of the non-coercion rule, as well as the  application of the doctrine of incidental powers for the Necessary and Proper Clause, are among the many elements of the Roberts opinion whose significance approaches that of some of the most important opinions by Chief Justice Marshall.

Although we do not know Chief Justice Roberts’ motives, I suggestion a comparison of NFIB to Marbury v. Madison: adroitly escaping from a partisan assault on the Court itself, the opinion moves constitutional law very far in the opposite of the direction favored by partisan assaulters–and does so in a way that leaves the partisan assaulters unable to use the case in their attacks on the Court.

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Necessary and Proper Clause returned to the Original Understanding. Podcast with Ilya Somin, and more

Posted by on Jun 29 2012 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Necessary and Proper, Originalism

Yesterday I interviewed Ilya Somin about the NFIB decision, particularly the portion involving the Necessary and Proper Clause. Here’s the link for the 28 minute episode on iVoices.org. As Ilya details, the decision strongly restates and applies a principle from McCulloch v. Maryland: that whether a law is “proper” is an entirely different question from whether it is “necessary.” And CJ Roberts’ opinion is the first in Supreme Court history to find that a law which is “necessary” is not proper. Ilya’s amicus brief was the key brief on the necessity of making separate inquiries into “necessary” and “proper.”

That’s not the only way in which the Roberts opinion brings interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause back to the proper, originalist understanding which was explicated in McCulloch. The Roberts opinion explains that the NP Clause grants Congress no additional powers; the clause merely expresses the default legal rule that when an enumerated power is granted, the grant also includes lesser powers which are “incidental” to the enumerated power. In McCulloch, Chief Justice Marshall found it necessary to spend many pages applying the doctrine of incidental powers before he could reach the other issues about the constitutionality of the Second Bank of the United States.

The Roberts opinion is one of many, many post-McCulloch opinions to utilize the doctrine of incidental powers, but it is the first opinion to hold that a particular law is not valid because it is not an incident of an enumerated power. The originalist, Marshallian understanding of the doctrine of incidental powers was the subject of the amicus brief which Rob Natelson, Gary Lawson, and I wrote. The brief is based on the book The Origins of the Necessary and Proper Clause, published by Cambridge University in 2010, and co-authored by Natelson, Lawson, Geoffrey P. Miller and Guy I. Seidman.

The brief devotes much attention to the newspaper essays which John Marshall wrote defending the McCulloch decision. These essays were collected in the book John Marshall’s Defense of McCulloch v. Maryland, published in 1969 and edited by Gerald Gunther. The Roberts opinion is the first in Supreme Court history to cite this book, and the first to cite Marshall’s essays.

The Roberts opinion joins McCulloch v. Maryland as an essential case in any law school textbook that covers the Necessary and Proper Clause. While the Roberts opinion on the Commerce Clause and the Spending Clause brings current interpretation of those clauses closer to the original understanding, current interpretation remains a long way from original meaning. For the Necessary and Proper Clause, however, the Roberts opinion goes all the way.  As of yesterday, Supreme Court doctrine about the Necessary and Proper Clause has fully returned to 1791/1819. The originalist victory is complete.

For some background on the doctrine of incidental powers, one starting point is the Lawson/Kopel article Bad News for Professor Koppelman: The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate, 121 Yale Law Journal Online 267 (2011). A follow-up article, Bad News for John Marshall, 121 Yale Law Journal Online 529 (2012), replies to Andrew Koppelman’s warning that following McCulloch‘s originalist doctrine will cause national catastrophe. It looks like we’ll find out if he’s right. If you’re assuming that he is, and thus time is short before The End, a condensed version of our Yale article is available on Legal Workshop.

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AUDIO: Supreme Court’s ObamaCare Decision

Posted by on Jun 29 2012 | Constitutional Law, Health Care, health control law, iVoices.org, Kopelization, Legal professor, obama, obamacare, Originalism, PPC, Taxes, U.S. Constitution

Thanks to our two in-house constitutional law scholars, Dave Kopel and Rob Natelson, we have a couple of fresh off sound editor podcasts on yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling. But before I link to you that, take a look at Dave’s article on the ruling in the SCOTUSblog.

Just hours after the ruling came down yesterday, Dave got on the phone with George Mason University Law professor Ilya Somin for analysis. You can find the iVoices.org podcast here.

Rob Natelson went home immediately yesterday after the decision came down to read the Court’s opinions in their entirety. Today he reported his findings both on his blog and on iVoices.org. Rob’s take is focused primarily on why the argument that the penalty for not buying insurance is really a “tax” has no constitutional basis or founding evidence. Listen to Rob’s iVoices podcast here.

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Kopel Explains Obamcare Decision on Devil’s Advocate

Posted by on Jun 29 2012 | Constitutional Law, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC, supreme court

Looking forward to a Friday night full of passion, suspense and intrigue? C’mon, we all know that ‘aint going to happen. So go ahead and find the sweet spot on the couch and tune into the Independence Institute’s public affairs tv show Devil’s Advocate as host Jon Caldara is joined by Dave Kopel, constitutional law professor and attorney of record for two (count ‘em, two) Independence Institute amicus briefs in the Obamacare Supreme Court case, to dissect and explain the court’s rulings on the controversial health care law. That’s tonight at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12.

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Dave Kopel Responds to ObamaCare Decision

Posted by on Jun 28 2012 | Constitutional Law, Health Care, health control law, Individual Mandate, obama, obamacare, PPC, U.S. Constitution

Hey everyone. I know today’s Supreme Court ObamaCare decision is a lot to stomach right now, but I wanted to share with you our Constitutional Law scholar Dave Kopel’s statement on the issue. It should soften the blow considerably.

The Court’s decision against the Medicaid mandate means that Colorado has the right to choose whether or not to drastically expand state spending on Medicaid; Congress cannot coerce Coloradans to do so. The Medicaid mandate decision stops Congress from misusing of its Spending power to violate the 10th Amendment rights of the States; and it is the first time since 1936 that the Court has enforced significant constitutional limits on the Spending power.

The Medicaid mandate would have required Colorado to provide Medicaid to able-bodied childless adults. Simply put, this mandate would have put Colorado on a short path to insolvency.

The Independence Institute is gratified that the Court agreed with both of our amicus briefs, on the Medicaid mandate and on the Necessary and Proper Clause. On the Medicaid mandate, the Court strongly affirmed the fundamental constitutional principle, detailed in our brief, that the States are separate and independent sovereigns. The decision is in line with the Court’s record over the last two decades years in protecting state sovereignty. The Independence Institute has a long record of advocacy in this field; for example, in 1997, II Research Director Dave Kopel and Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton (herself a former Senior Fellow at II), co-authored an amicus brief for eight States in Printz v. United States. There, a 5-4 majority of the Court held that Congress could not order state and local law enforcement officers to carry out federal background checks on handgun buyers.

Today’s decision on the Medicaid mandate was 7-2, with Justices Breyer and Kagan joining the majority. This is one sign of how the Independence Institute’s long-term work is paying off.

The Court also agreed with our amicus brief on the Necessary and Proper Clause. As the research of our Senior Fellow Rob Natelson has explained, the Necessary and Proper Clause confers no additional powers on Congress. The Clause simply restates the general principle that Congress can exercise powers which are merely “incidental” to Congress’s enumerated powers. For example, since the Constitution gives Congress to power to establish the rules of bankruptcy, Congress can enact laws against bankruptcy fraud. The Court’s adoption the originalist interpretation developed by Natelson is the most important decision on the Necessary and Proper Clause since McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819.

Of course we were disappointed that the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate under a different theory–not that the mandate is a “Necessary and Proper” regulation of interstate commerce, but instead that the mandate is merely a tax.

While the socialists are celebrating the individual mandate that they love and that most Americans loathe, let’s consider the bottom line, according to Lyle Deniston, the most-esteemed and most senior Supreme Court journalist in the United States: “The rejection of the Commerce Clause and Nec. and Proper Clause should be understood as a major blow to Congress’s authority to pass social welfare laws. Using the tax code — especially in the current political environment — to promote social welfare is going to be a very chancy proposition.”

There are more legal challenges coming to other parts of Obamacare. The political challenges are going to continue too, and the Independence Institute is going to remain at the forefront–in the courts, and in the court of public opinion–fighting for the day when there will be no more Obamacare, and for the day when all Americans will truly enjoy patient protection and affordable care.

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VIDEO: Blogging and Media, Rabbit Cruelty

Posted by on Jun 27 2012 | Idiot Box (TV Show), Media, PPC

I was asked to post the past two episodes of my TV show, so here they are. First up is investigative reporter Todd Shepherd and I discussing the current state of media and blogging in Colorado:

Then in the second part, we learn about rabbit cruelty. Still such a strange story:

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Catch Me on KHOW Radio ‘Till Mid-July

Posted by on Jun 27 2012 | Media, PPC

As if your drive home from work isn’t awful enough in this record breaking heat and traffic, I’ll be filling in on radio until July 16th. Tune in to 630 KHOW on the AM dial from 3:00 to 6:00pm and I’ll guarantee your favorite FM rock station will sound even better by comparison.

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Special SCOTUS ObamaCare Coverage Thursday!

Posted by on Jun 26 2012 | Constitutional Law, Health Care, health control law, iVoices.org, Kopelization, PPC, U.S. Constitution

I have a special announcement to make. This Thursday the Supreme Court will release its ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare. This is going to be the big news of the day (the week? the month? the YEAR!). As soon as the decision drops this Thursday, our constitutional law scholar Dave Kopel is going to get on the phone with a couple of very highly regarded figureheads in the legal world – Richard Epstein and Gary Lawson. Dave will be discussing the fallout from the decision, taking particular care to get into the legal analysis with the two professors. In other words, it is a law nerd’s deepest, darkest fantasy.

I will make sure to post the podcasts here on my blog as soon as they are released Thursday afternoon/evening. Stay tuned!

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