Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Ensign (R-NV) raised a constitutional point of order that will compel a vote by the full Senate on the constitutionality of the Senate Health Care bill’s requirements for individuals to procure health insurance under the threat of fines or incarceration. The vote could take place as early as this afternoon. DeMint has stressed that a mandate compelling citizens to purchase any product from a private company is clearly an illegal and unprecedented form of federal action:
“Forcing every American to purchase a product is absolutely inconsistent with our Constitution and the freedoms our Founding Fathers hoped to protect,” said Senator DeMint. “This is not at all like car insurance, you can choose not to drive but Americans will have no choice whether to buy government-approved insurance. This is nothing more than a bailout and takeover of insurance companies. We’re forcing Americans to buy insurance under penalty of law and then Washington bureaucrats will then dictate what these companies can sell to Americans. This is not liberty, it is tyranny of good intentions by elites in Washington who think they can plan our lives better than we can.”
The point of order will either be waived or it will stand and the health care bill would be invalid until the unconstitutional parts are deleted. The Senate chair will not rule on the constitutionality of these parts of the bill, so the matter shall be placed before the full Senate to ask if the point is “well taken”. Simple majority is required to declare the bill unconstitutional.
While it is a virtual certainty the Democrat-held Senate will deem their bill to be constitutional, Sen. DeMint hopes to change the focus of the debate:
“What I hope we can do by raising the point of order is to maybe turn our focus back to our oath of office and the whole foundation that we are supposed to be making laws from, which is completely un-tethered now,” DeMint said. “There is no mention of constitutional framework now when we deal with legislation. As I said [Monday] on the floor, most of the people here in this Congress believe that there is not a pothole in America today that should not be filled with a federal earmark — or a scratched knee or a hurt feeling. I mean there’s nothing that can be brought up on the floor of the Senate that people could say, ‘That’s not constitutional,’ and be taken seriously. In fact it’s gone the other way. If you have the audacity to suggest that the government shouldn’t do something — you are accused of not wanting it to be done. We have to break that pattern. And part of it with this bill that’s now become very high profile, if we raise a Constitutional Point of Order, get people thinking about it, my hope is if the thing does go through, and I’m going to fight to the end to stop it, but if it does go through that there are constitutional challenges to this thing for years.”