AMICUS Brief of State Legislators in Support of the Affordable Care Act

January 16, 2012

A group of 581 State Legislators from all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, believe that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”) is constitutional and are working hard in their States to implement the Act in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.  They have a substantial interest in having this matter resolved expeditiously and in favor of the constitutionality of the Act.

from the brief

    Our Constitution establishes a vibrant system of federalism that gives broad power to the federal government to act in circumstances in which a national approach is necessary or preferable, while reserving a significant role for the States to craft innovative policy solutions reflecting the diversity of America’s people, places, and ideas.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act respects this constitutional balance of power by providing federal mechanisms for achieving national health care reform—including the minimum coverage provision—while maintaining the States’ ability to shape key reform measures.

    Ignoring this carefully calibrated constitutional balance of power, the court below and the State officials challenging the Affordable Care Act have promoted a vision of a starkly limited federal government.  According to this view, the federal government lacks the power to address national problems, such as the nationwide health care crisis, through rational and well-supported means, including the minimum coverage provision. 

    This deeply flawed vision has no basis in the Constitution’s text and history.  With the failed Articles of Confederation and its feeble central government fresh in their minds, George Washington, James Madison, and the other delegates to the Constitutional Convention shared a conviction that the Constitution must establish a national government of substantial power.  In considering how to grant such power to the national government, the delegates adopted Resolution VI, which declared that Congress should have authority “to legislate in all Cases for the general Interests of the Union, and also in those to which the States are separately incompetent, or in which the Harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the Exercise of individual legislation.”  2 The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 at 131-32 (Max Farrand, ed., rev. ed. 1966).  Stated simply, the framers of our founding charter came to the drafting table with the aim of giving the federal government power to provide national solutions to national problems.

    Tasked with translating the principle of Resolution VI into specific provisions, the Convention’s Committee of Detail drafted Article I to grant Congress the broad power to, among other things, “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”  U.S. Const. art I, § 8, cl. 3.  The text does not limit “commerce” to existing economic activity or trade, nor does the text’s use of “regulate” imply a power to prohibit but not require certain conduct.  The lower court’s vision of a Commerce Clause power strictly curtailed by tests of self-initiated activity thus cannot be squared with the Clause’s text or original meaning and purpose.

    Similarly, the lower court’s interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause is wholly unsupported by constitutional text and history.  Far from the cramped vision of the Clause suggested by the court below, which would permit Congress to regulate only by using means that are themselves covered by the Commerce Clause (effectively rendering the Necessary and Proper Clause a nullity), the grant of power to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” constitutionally granted powers was intended to be sweeping.  U.S. Const. art. I, §8, cl. 18.  As recognized by our first President, the rest of the framers, and this Court from the Founding to the present, the Necessary and Proper Clause grants Congress the power to use means outside the enumerated list of Article I powers to achieve the ends contemplated in the Constitution.  The general purpose of the Affordable Care Act falls within Congress’s constitutionally granted powers, and the minimum coverage provision, which is part of the means of effecting reform of the national health care industry, does not infringe upon any constitutionally guaranteed rights.  There is no constitutional right to freeload that is infringed by the individual responsibility aspect of the minimum coverage provision.

    Under a faithful reading of the Constitution, the minimum coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act is a valid exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause powers.  The Act’s challengers may disagree with Amici State Legislators and other supporters of the Act about the merits of the law, but policy differences do not add up to constitutional violations.  Congress’s regulation of decisions on how and when to finance health care services is constitutional.

Read the full text of the CAC brief amici curiae defending the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , including list of signers

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