President Obama wants us to believe that debate about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is over. “It’s the law of the land,” he has said.
I strongly disagree. I still believe the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, even if you accept the Supreme Court’s conclusion in 2012 that Obamacare’s individual mandate simply imposed a “tax on going without health care.”
My attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation have just asked the Supreme Court to hear my constitutional lawsuit against Obamacare. It focuses on the fact that the Origination Clause (Article 1, Section 7) requires all “bills for raising revenue” to begin in the House of Representatives, the chamber closest to the people. Yet Obamacare began in the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid took an unrelated House bill, gutted it, and inserted the language that became the Affordable Care Act.
This ploy violated the Constitution’s letter and spirit.
Who am I, you might ask, to harbor hope of bringing down a mammoth federal program that has withstood legal assaults by state governments, major businesses and other formidable plaintiffs?
I’m simply an average man taking a stand.
I’m a self-employed artist and small-business owner, living in Washington state. I have no political involvement or ambitions.
I am also a realist. The Supreme Court accepts very few of the cases that are petitioned to it.
But I am hopeful the justices will recognize the urgent issue at stake: Will the Origination Clause — a constitutional protection against reckless and arbitrary taxation — be repealed through the back door, by Congress ignoring it and courts failing to enforce it?
Obamacare isn’t just an unprecedented federal intrusion into our private lives and our personal health care decisions. It is also a voracious revenue-raising machine. All told, its scores of new taxes and fines will siphon more than $800 billion out of the economy over the next 10 years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. The individual mandate alone will cost $55 billion over that period.
The Founders knew that the taxing authority can be “the power to destroy,” as Chief Justice John Marshall put it. The Origination Clause was meant to make that power accountable to the people, by requiring taxes to begin in the “people’s House.”
Unfortunately, in ruling against my case, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit severely undermined the Origination Clause as a reliable safeguard for taxpayers against abuse of the taxing power.
The court held that judges can exempt tax legislation from the Origination Clause if they consider its primary purpose to be something other than raising revenue.
“This vague new test would allow lawmakers and judges to ignore the Origination Clause at will,” said Timothy Sandefur, my attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation. “That audacious proposition ought to cause the Supreme Court serious concern.”
It’s been a five-year journey for me to get to this point.
Filing suit in 2010, I originally challenged Obamacare on Commerce Clause grounds. When the individual mandate was designated a “tax” by the Supreme Court, my lawsuit was amended to target the Origination Clause violation.
But my motivations have remained constant all along.
I am battling for my freedom — and everyone’s freedom — to make health care choices without government coercion, and not be subject to micromanaging mandates and taxes that were imposed unconstitutionally.
As I have pointed out from the beginning, I served with the Army National Guard in Iraq as a combat medic, eventually receiving the Bronze Star. I mention that experience because it underscores an important point: While I was proud to volunteer for military service, I object to being conscripted, now, into a command-and-control federal health care regime.
As free individuals, Americans should not be compelled to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all insurance policies concocted by federal bureaucrats. Lawmakers who can’t balance the government’s books have no business dictating to the rest of us how to budget and allocate our own money for our own health care needs.
Moreover, Congress can’t be allowed to ignore the Founders’ road map for enacting taxes, because those procedures are there to protect us.
One of the things that makes America great is that an average person can carry a fight for civil rights all the way to the highest court. It’s daunting to be knocking on the justices’ door, but also a privilege to be able to take a stand for health care freedom and taxpayers’ rights — and a core constitutional safeguard for everyone’s liberties.
• Matt Sissel is the plaintiff in Sissel v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.