President Obama was once a lecturer on constitutional law, but he appears to be a little rusty. Most of what he has said recently about the Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the health-care law he signed has been ill-informed.
Asked about the matter at a press conference on April 2, he responded that he was confident the Court would uphold the law: “And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional.” Actually, there isn’t any precedent for the Court to examine on the question of whether the federal government can order Americans to buy health insurance. There are plenty of cases, from the New Deal onward, in which the Court has said the federal government has broad leeway in regulating commerce among the states. Wickard v. Filburn, for example, is a canonical 1942 case in which the Court held that Congress may regulate even intrastate economic activity because of its interstate effects. But the oral argument did not dwell much on such cases, because they do not offer much guidance for the Court in the Obamacare case.
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