Notes From Babel

Who Cares About the Constitution? Not Congressman James Clyburn

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UPDATE:Ilya Somin has a good short primer on legislators’ constitutional obligations:

Emory law professor Robert Schapiro has an op ed arguing that the federal mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance included in the current health care bill is both constitutional and consistent with federalism [HT: Alison Schmauch]. I agree that the mandate would probably be upheld under current Supreme Court precedent. However, like many other defenders of the constitutionality of the individual mandate, Schapiro doesn’t even consider the possibility that that precedent is wrong. For reasons I describe here, the mandate is inconsistent with the text and original meaning of the Constitution. Even if the Supreme Court decides that the mandate is constitutional, members of Congress and the president have an independent duty to assess the constitutionality of the legislation they vote on and sign. They all have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution, not merely what the Supreme Court says the Constitution means. If the courts rule that a particular congressional or executive action is unconstitutional, the other branches of government should obey. Otherwise, the courts would be unable to serve as an effective check on legislative and executive power. But no constitutional principle prevents Congress and the president from interpreting their authority more narrowly than the Supreme Court does.

(Emphasis added.)

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Written by Tim Kowal

November 14, 2009 at 12:50 am

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