Tax legislation has to originate in the House; the health-care law didn’t.
Of all the fraud perpetrated in the passage of Obamacare — and the fraud has been epic — the lowest is President Obama’s latest talking point that the Supreme Court has endorsed socialized medicine as constitutional. To the contrary, the justices held the “Affordable” Care Act unconstitutional as Obama presented it to the American people: namely, as a legitimate exercise of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.
To sustain this monstrosity, Chief Justice John Roberts had to shed his robes and put on his legislator cap. He rewrote Obamacare as a tax — the thing the president most indignantly promised Americans that Obamacare was not. And it is here that our recent debate over the Constitution’s Origination Clause — the debate in which Matt Franck, Ramesh Ponnuru, Mark Steyn, and yours truly have probed the historical boundaries of the “power of the purse” reposed by the Framers in the House of Representatives — descends from the airy realm of abstraction and homes in on a concrete violation of law.
It is not just that the intensely unpopular Obamacare was unconstitutional as fraudulently portrayed by the president and congressional Democrats who strong-armed and pot-sweetened its way to passage. It is that Obamacare is unconstitutional as rewritten by Roberts. It is a violation of the Origination Clause — not only as I have expansively construed it, but even under Matt’s narrow interpretation of the Clause.
It is worth pausing here briefly to rehearse an argument often made in these pages before the Supreme Court ruling two summers ago. The justices’ resolution, whatever it was to be, would in no way be an endorsement of Obamacare; it would merely reflect the fact that our Constitution, designed for a free people, permits all manner of foolishness. “Constitutional” does not necessarily mean “good.” What Obamacare always needed was a political reversal in Congress. Thus, it was unwise for Republicans to become passive while hoping the justices would do their heavy lifting for them — both because it was unlikely that this Supreme Court would invalidate Obamacare and because a ruling upholding it would inevitably be used by the most demagogic administration in history as a judicial stamp of approval for socialized medicine.