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Paul Clement’s Fake Constitution

Paul Clement’s Fake Constitution

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Ian Millhiser debunks the attorney’s claims that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
Ian Millhiser debunks the attorney’s claims that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Center for American Progress on Mar 23, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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1Center for American Progress | Paul Clement’s Fake Constitution: 3 False Claims in the Attorney’s Anti-Health Care Brief 
Paul Clements Fake Constitution
3 False Claims in the Attorneys Anti-Health Care Brief 
Ian Millhiser March 2012
Te legal case agains he Aordable Care Ac has, in he words o conservaive JudgeLaurence Silberman, no basis “in eiher he ex o he Consiuion or Supreme Courpreceden.” Neverheless, he plainis challenging his law have hired a very skilledatorney—ormer U.S. Solicior General Paul Clemen—and Clemen clearly believeshe is so skilled ha he can pull a as one on he jusices o he Supreme Cour. His brie  atacking he Aordable Care Ac as unconsiuional is riddled wih misrepresenaionso preceden and inaccurae descripions o wha our Consiuion says.Here are hree key examples o Clemen’s atemp o replace he U.S. Consiuion wihsomehing compleely dieren.
1. Clement’s bad textualism
In he rs secion o his argumen, Clemen atemps o redene he meaning o heConsiuion’s words empowering Congress o “regulae commerce … among he severalsaes.” In Clemen’s reconcepion o hese words, he verb “regulae” does no includehe abiliy o require “individuals o engage in commercial ransacions,” and hus he Aordable Care Ac’s requiremen ha mos people carry healh insurance is invalid.Bu his novel reading o he word “regulae” is simply no accurae. In his opinionupholding he Aordable Care Ac, Judge Silberman reerred o an 18h-cenury dic-ionary o rebu Clemen’s claim. AsSilberman explained:
 At the time the Constitution was ashioned, to ‘regulate’ meant, as it does now, “[t]o adjust by rule or method,” as well as “[t]o direct.” To “direct,” in turn, included “[t]o prescribecertain measure[s]; to mark out a certain course,” and “[t]o order; to command.” In other words, to “regulate” can mean to require action, and nothing in the defnition appears tolimit that power only to those already active in relation to an interstate market.
Silberman’s reading o he Consiuion has a long pedigree. In 1824 Supreme CourChie Jusice John Marshall wroe in
Gibbons v. Ogden
ha here is “no sor o rade” o
2Center for American Progress | Paul Clement’s Fake Constitution: 3 False Claims in the Attorney’s Anti-Health Care Brief 
 which he words “regulae Commerce” do no apply. Moreover, Marshall explained, hepower o regulae somehing “implies in is naure ull power over he hing o be regu-laed.” As he Unied Saes explains in isreply brie  , more recen Supreme Cour deci-sions esablish ha he power o “regulae commerce” includes he power o “promoe[commerce’s] growh” and o “oser” i.Te Aordable Care Ac regulaes rade in healh care services, and under Marshall’srule Congress has “ull power” over all orms o rade—including he power o requirepeople o ake cerain acions wihin he healh care marke. Clemen’s unprecedenedreading o he Consiuion is nohing less han an atemp o rewrie i.
2. Clement’s hyperbole about limitless government power
Troughou his liigaion Aordable Care Ac opponens have resed on he alse claimha i healh reorm is upheld, i will somehow resul in Congress passing whaever lawsi wans. In Clemen’s words, he only way or he Cour o uphold he healh reormlaw is o accep “boundless inerpreaions o he Commerce Clause” ha would enableCongress o regulae anyhing a all.Once again, his is alse. Te Consiuion’s words empowering Congress o “regulaecommerce” imply ha maters ha are no commercial in naure res ouside o hisgran o power. Tus, in
he Supreme Cour sruck down a ederallaw banning guns in school zones because his law had litle relaionship o commer-cial maters. Likewise, in
he Cour sruck down he Violence Agains Women Ac because he law was no economic in naure. aken ogeher,
esablished ha economic regulaion is well wihin he Unied Saes’sauhoriy, bu noneconomic laws are ar more consiuionally suspec.Because he Aordable Care Ac regulaes he naional healh care marke—or one-sixho he naions economy—his law is unquesionably commercial in naure. Te samecanno be said abou many noneconomic laws ha would be beyond Congress’s powero regulae commerce. In is brie, he Unied Saes liss “amily law, general criminallaw, or educaion” as examples o laws ha exceed Congress’s power o regulae com-merce. Tus, a long lis o laws ranging rom ederal murder laws, rape and assaul laws,and ederal ruancy laws, o ederal child neglec laws will sill be unconsiuional orCongress o regulae afer he Aordable Care Ac is upheld.
3. Clement’s Scalia problem
Even i Congress didn’ have he power o enac an insurance coverage requiremen underis power o regulae commerce, he Consiuion’s “Necessary and Proper Clause”
3Center for American Progress | Paul Clement’s Fake Constitution: 3 False Claims in the Attorney’s Anti-Health Care Brief 
 which gives Congress he auhoriy o make all laws necessary and proper o carry ouis specically graned powers under he Consiuion—provides an alernaive reason why he Aordable Care Ac is consiuional. In
he Supreme Courexplained why i will no srike down a provision o law when ha provision is an “essenialpar o a larger regulaion o economic aciviy.” As Supreme Cour Jusice Anonin Scaliaexplained in aconcurring opinion , “where Congress has he auhoriy o enac a regulaiono inersae commerce, i possesses every power needed o make ha regulaion eecive.”Te Aordable Care Ac s comorably wihin Jusice Scalia’s rule. Te ac prohibisinsurers rom denying coverage o paiens wih pre-exising condiions. Tis ban cannouncion, however, i paiens can ener and exi he insurance marke a will. I paiens can wai unil hey ge sick o buy insurance, hey will drain all he money ou o an insuranceplan ha hey have no previously paid ino, leaving nohing or he res o he plan’s con-sumers. Tus, a requiremen ha mos individuals obain insurance beore hey becomeill is an essenial par o he ac’s overall regulaion o he insurance indusry—or, o useScalia’s words, i is needed o make he law’s insurance regulaions eecive.Clemen ries o disarm his Scalia bomb by raising a compleely irrelevan disincion.Te Supreme Cour permis wo kinds o consiuional challenges o ederal laws: acialchallenges, which argue ha he law mus be eecively erased rom he books; andas-applied challenges, which argue ha he law is unconsiuional or some people andconsiuional as applied o ohers. Clemen argues ha, because his lawsui is a acialchallenge, he Scalia rule somehow does no apply.Tis argumen, however, has no basis in Supreme Cour preceden. Indeed, he UniedSaes cies our Supreme Cour cases in is reply brie—
United States v. Lopez
 , and
—where he Cour applied heScalia rule o a acial challenge. Clemen simply canno avoid longsanding consiu-ional law by relying on irrelevancies. As an alernaive heory, Clemen ries o disarm he Scalia bomb by claiming ha he Aordable Care Ac runs aoul o a novel rule agains “creaing problems in need o exraconsiuional soluions.” Clemen argues ha, because he insurance coveragerequiremen is only necessary o solve a problem creaed by Congress’s regulaion o heinsurance indusry, i somehow exceeds Congresss auhoriy under he Necessary andProper Clause o he Consiuion.Bu he Supreme Cour rejeced his argumen jus wo years ago. In
 , he Cour considered a law ha permis ederal prisons o deain “sexually dangerous” prisoners beyond he lengh o heir senences. In upholding he law, heCour explained ha by ransporing sex oenders o communiies conaining ederalprisons, he ederal governmen had creaed a poenial danger o hose local communi-ies—and hus i could ac o alleviae he danger i had creaed.

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