(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) declined to say where Congress gets the constitutional authority to require every American to have health insurance, as both the Senate and House health care bills mandate.
At the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 22, CNSNews.com asked Senator Lautenberg, “Specifically where in the Constitution does Congress get the authority to mandate that individuals have health insurance?”
Lautenberg said, “I am not going to answer that,” and then walked away.
The individual health insurance mandate in the Senate health reform bill would force all Americans to carry some form of government-approved health insurance or pay an excise tax penalty ranging between $500 and $1,500 per year.
The Senate health care bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is 2,078 pages long and is estimated to cost -- over 10 years, with benefits starting in 2014 – at least $1.8 trillion.
The legislation passed on a party-line vote, 60 – 39, on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. (Sen. Jim Bunning [R-Ky.] skipped the vote, while the two Independents – Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut – joined with the 58 Democrats to pass the bill.)
Back in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examined the individual health insurance mandate, which was then being proposed by President Bill Clinton’s health care reform effort, and described the idea as an “unprecedented form of federal action.”
“The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States,” the CBO analysis said. “An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.”
While the Senate debated the health care bill on Dec. 22, Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) raised, on behalf of the Republican Steering Committee, a point of order questioning the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
That point of order, however, was dismissed on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 23, in a roll call vote that split along party lines, 60-39.
In a floor speech when he raised the point of order, Sen. Ensign said, “I am incredibly concerned that the Democrats’ proposed individual mandate provision takes away too much freedom and choice from Americans across the country.”
“As an American, I felt the obligation to stand up for the individual freedom of every citizen to make their own decision on this issue. I don’t believe Congress has the legal authority to force this mandate on its citizens.”
A transcript of the exchange between Sen. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and CNSNews.com follows below:
CNSNews.com: “Specifically where in the Constitution does Congress get the authority to mandate that individuals have health insurance?”
Senator Lautenberg: “I’m not going to answer that.”