Mitch McConnell shouts from the sidelines
Attempting to make good on the GOP's threat to dismantle health-care reform, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to file a "friend of the court" brief in support of a multi-state lawsuit against the law. Politico has a copy of the amicus curiae brief, which pretty much reiterates the argument at the heart of state-led suits: McConnell says that the individual mandate to purchase insurance would be an unconstitutional extension of federal authority under the commerce clause.
But, McConnell continues, there will be far more frightening outcomes if the law is allowed to stand. "If the individual mandate is deemed constitutional, there will no longer be any limit on Congress's power to regulate its citizens under the Commerce Clause. Congress's specific power under that Clause will be transformed into a general police power, all but eliminating the distinction between federal and state regulatory authority in our federal union," McConnell wrote Tuesday in a letter (PDF link) introducing his amicus brief. So, in essence, health-care reform will lead the country down a slippery slope towards a nightmarish regime controlled by the federal government.
Such a proclamation could certainly fire up the conservative activists who are already convinced that health reform has put America on the march toward socialism, if not a complete totalitarian state. But McConnell's brief is also the perfect example of how limited the GOP's reach will be in terms of affecting substantive change to health care in the next Congress. As a non-binding document, the amicus brief is essentially a symbolic and ideological gesture that McConnell is encouraging his fellow senators to sign onto. Perhaps it could help encourage courts to take up the lawsuits more rapidly — the Supreme Court has already href="http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/11/08/supreme-court-declines-to-hear-first-challenge-to-health-care-law/">declined to hear the first challenge to the law until lower courts rule, as is standard practice. But if there are any sweeping changes to health reform in the near future, it's likely to come from the courts, not Congressional Republicans, who will have a tough time repealing the law. McConnell's latest statement, like most amicus briefs, is just another shout from the sidelines.
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