Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Healthcare and State Sovereignty

On Tuesday, February 2nd, the Missouri Senate will consider SCR 34. This resolution is being sponsored by State Senator Jim Lembke. The legislation "reaffirms Missouri's sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment and demands that the federal government stop all activities outside the scope of their constitutionally-delegated powers."

Missouri is not alone in asserting its sovereignty. As the Washington Post reports, most states are trying to find ways to ban mandatory health insurance:
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Although President Barack Obama's push for a health care overhaul has stalled, conservative lawmakers in more than two-thirds of the states are forging ahead with constitutional amendments to ban government health insurance mandates.
. . .
"We need to move ahead no matter what kind of maneuvering continues in Washington, D.C.," said Missouri Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from suburban St. Louis.
. . .
"They are merely symbolic gestures," said Michael Dorf, a constitutional law professor at Cornell University. "If this Congress were to pass an individual mandate, and if it is constitutional - which I believe it is - the express rule under the supremacy clause (of the U.S. Constitution) is that the federal law prevails."
Michael Dorf's point about whether or not the healthcare legislation is constitutional is exactly why these efforts are not "symbolic gestures." When the constitutionality of a law is brought before the Supreme Court, the actions of the states often inform the opinions of the Justices. The point of state sovereignty movement is to bolster the tenth amendment in the eyes of the court so that state's rights are given greater weight in their opinions. Healthcare is merely the vehicle for this broader constitutional battle.

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