- The Washington Times - Friday, December 25, 2009

Constitutional challenges

Although the Republican Party was not able to block the Democrats’ health care plan in the Senate, there are efforts to stop it on constitutional grounds.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a legal study about the matter earlier this month that summarized the problem thusly: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be 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. 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.”

The tactic has been discussed for several months, but went to the Senate floor this week. Sens. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, and John Ensign, Nevada Republican, attempted to invoke a “constitutional point of order” during the Senate debate leading up to the final vote, but were unsuccessful.

Another try

Several state attorneys general are now going to challenge the health care overhaul on constitutional grounds, although they plan to single out the deal that Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, secured for his state, the Republican Party argues, at the expense of taxpayers in other states.

“The Nebraska Compromise, which permanently exempts Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs that Texas and all other states must pay, may violate the U.S. Constitution as well as other provisions of federal law,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, says he is working with attorneys general in nine other states and will be conducting strategy meetings next week.

Mr. Abbott told the Associated Press in a phone interview that if what he calls “the Nebraska Compromise” is permitted to stand “then there are really no limitations on actions that Congress can take where literally they’re taking taxpayer dollars from one state and giving it to another.”

Blame game?

CNN anchor Carol Costello suggested Republicans may be at fault for the sweetheart deals Democratic leadership struck with some senators who were reluctant to vote for the health care bill.

“Might Republicans blame in part themselves for this, because none of them were going to vote?” she queried Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who managed Mike Huckabees 2008 presidential campaign. “Didn’t they sort of force Sen. Reid’s hand in making some of these sweetheart deals?”

Mr. Rollins answered that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, wanted Republican votes he could have started by giving the party something it wanted, like letting insurance companies sell plans across state lines.

Abortion

Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, who opposes abortion, says the language permitting federal funding of abortion contained in the Senate health care bill passed on Thursday is unacceptable.

“While I appreciate the efforts of all the parties involved, especially Sen. Ben Nelson, the Senate abortion language is not acceptable,” Mr. Stupak said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues on this issue as the process moves forward.”

Mr. Stupak leads an influential contingent of abortion opponents in the House. Although the Senate bill does not fund abortion outright, it allows the federal government to use tax dollars to subsidize insurance plans that cover the procedure. The bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve will be melded in a “conference report” with the Houses version of the bill in the coming weeks.

Mr. Stupak indicated he would continue to press the issue in the upcoming conference report with the Senate. “I look forward to working with members of the House, Senate and the Obama administration to find common ground on this issue and draft language that guarantees continuation of current law of no public funding for abortion,” he said.

No bump expected

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman doesn’t think President Obama will get any immediate polling benefit from the Senate passing a health care reform bill.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if [Mr. Obama’s] ratings stay fairly close to where they are,” Mr. Mellman told the liberal Huffington Post. “And for two reasons: first of all, the real weight that is holding down the president’s approval rating is the economy. There is just no question about that is the real impediment to his approval ratings improving. To pass health care reform on Christmas Eve is not going to improve the economy the day after Christmas. Secondly, at this point this is still a pretty controversial bill. When people know the content they are for it, and when they don’t know the content they are pretty divided. So I’m not sure there are going to be a lot of people jumping for joy.”

Another theory

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Republican “negativity” over health care legislation will dissipate over time.

In a meeting with reporters after Senate passage of the bill Mr. Schumer said, “I believe that the negativity that [Republican] Leader [Mitch] McConnell and others have continually displayed on the floor has peaked, and now, when people learn what’s actually in the bill and all the good it does, it will become more and more popular.”

Poll standing

A Dec. 24 Rasmussen Reports presidential tracking poll showed that only 27 percent of voters “strongly approve of the way President Obama is performing his job; 43 percent “strongly disapprove,” according to the daily poll, which was conducted after the Senate passed its version of the health care bill strictly on party lines.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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