|FLASHBACK: When Asked Where the Constitution Authorizes Congress to Order Americans To Buy Health Insurance, Pelosi Says: 'Are You Serious?'
CNSNews.com originally published this story in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed the question of whether Obamacare was constitutional on Oct. 22, 2009.
CNS News | December 13, 2010
By Matt Cover
(CNSNews.com) - When CNSNews.com asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
on Thursday where the Constitution authorized Congress to order Americans
to buy health insurance--a mandate included in both the House and Senate
versions of the health care bill--Pelosi dismissed the question by saying:
“Are you serious? Are you serious?”
Pelosi's press secretary later responded to written follow-up questions
from CNSNews.com by emailing CNSNews.com a press release on the “Constitutionality
of Health Insurance Reform,” that argues that Congress derives the authority
to mandate that people purchase health insurance from its constitutional
power to regulate interstate commerce.
The exchange with Speaker Pelosi on Thursday occurred as follows:
CNSNews.com: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution
grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?
Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?"
CNSNews.com: “Yes, yes I am."
Pelosi then shook her head before taking a question from another reporter.
Her press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, then told CNSNews.com that asking
the speaker of the House where the Constitution authorized Congress to
mandated that individual Americans buy health insurance as not a "serious
“You can put this on the record,” said Elshami. “That is not a serious
question. That is not a serious question.”
Currently, each of the five health care overhaul proposals being considered
in Congress would command every American adult to buy health insurance.
Any person defying this mandate would be required to pay a penalty to the
Internal Revenue Service.
In 1994, when the health care reform plan then being advanced by President
Clinton called for mandating that all Americans buy health insurance, the
non-partisan Congressional Budget Office studied the issue and concluded:
“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.”
Later on Thursday, CNSNews.com followed up on the question, e-mailing
written queries for the speaker to her Spokesman Elshami.
“Where specifically does the Constitution authorize Congress to force
Americans to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance?”
CNSNews.com asked the speaker's office.
“If it is the Speaker’s belief that there is a provision in the Constitution
that does give Congress this power, does she believe the Constitution in
any way limits the goods and services Congress can force an individual
to purchase?" CNSNews.com asked. "If so, what is that limit?”
Elshami responded by sending CNSNews.com a Sept. 16 press release from
the Speaker’s office entitled, “Health Insurance Reform, Daily Mythbuster:
‘Constitutionality of Health Insurance Reform.’” The press
release states that Congress has “broad power to regulate activities that
have an effect on interstate commerce. Congress has used this authority
to regulate many aspects of American life, from labor relations to education
to health care to agricultural production.”
The release further states: “On the shared responsibility requirement
in the House health insurance reform bill, which operates like auto insurance
in most states, individuals must either purchase coverage (and non-exempt
employers must purchase coverage for their workers)—or pay a modest penalty
for not doing so. The bill uses the tax code to provide a strong incentive
for Americans to have insurance coverage and not pass their emergency health
costs onto other Americans—but it allows them a way to pay their way out
of that obligation. There is no constitutional problem with these