The Corner

Re: Virginia Judge Rules Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) weighs in:

“Today is a great day for liberty,” said Hatch.  “Congress must obey the Constitution rather than make it up as we go along. Liberty requires limits on government, and today those limits have been upheld.”

Hatch was the first Senator to publicly argue that the individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional.  Utah is an original plaintiff in another major lawsuit against ObamaCare, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida, which now includes 20 states, the National Federal of Independent Business (NFIB), and individual citizens.  In November, Senator Hatch joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) in circulating a friend-of-the-court brief which was filed in this case with the support of 32 Senators.  Judge Roger Vinson will hear arguments on the merits on Thursday, December 16.

“If the government can tell you what to buy, then what limits on federal power exist?” said Hatch.  “The $ 2.6 trillion health law is an astonishing expansion of that power and bursts the limits that the Constitution imposes on the federal government.”

In June 2010, Hatch introduced the American Liberty Restoration Act (S.3502), which would repeal the unconstitutional individual insurance mandate.  Fifteen Senators have so far co-sponsored the bill, which is endorsed by groups, including the NFIB and National Retail Federation.

Hatch has been eyeing the mandate issue for months. Here’s part of my chat with him on the subject:

In a perfect world, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) would like to “fully repeal” Obamacare. “That’s what I voted for earlier this year,” he says, alluding to the Senate GOP’s repeal amendment from March, which failed by a vote of 58 to 39. “But, for now, full repeal is very tough. I would like to see that, but Republicans only have 41 votes.”

With those numbers — stuck in the minority until at least January 2011, with Pres. Barack Obama in office until January 2013 — Hatch says Republicans “need to be strategic, going after Democrats’ arguments and specific provisions” while simultaneously strengthening the broader case against Obamacare. That strategy, he says, is the best way, this year, to stop the Democrats’ march down the “primrose path to socialism.” Last Thursday, to get the ball rolling, Hatch introduced two new repeal measures: One would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate, and the second would repeal the employer mandate.

Will the bills pass? Probably not, Hatch admits. He also does not expect Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to let the proposals come up for a vote anytime soon. Still, Hatch says, by opening this battlefront, “we can make the Democrats jumpy, saddling them with their albatross.”

“By attacking the mandates, we take away the Democrats’ arguments against our calls for full repeal, where they say we’d take away protections for people with preexisting conditions,” Hatch explains. “Focusing on the mandates enables us to shine a light on the most unconstitutional aspects of this lousy piece of legislation. It compels them to talk specifics. Let’s remember that these mandates are the central tenets of Obamacare. Gut them and the law falls apart.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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