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Somin Participates in NY Times Online Debate Re: Health Care Law

In striking down the "individual mandate" included in the federal government's health care bill, Judge Henry Hudson recognized that upholding it would give Congress virtually unlimited power to mandate anything, says Professor Ilya Somin, who this week took part in an online debate in the New York Times on the topic, "A Fatal Blow to Obama's Health Care Law?"

Hudson's ruling rejects the federal government's arguments that the mandate is justified by the Commerce Clause or authorized  by Congress' power to impose taxes.

"The text of the Commerce Clause gives Congress authority to regulate interstate commerce," says Somin. "But the individual mandate regulates that which is neither commercial nor interstate. Virtually all purchases of health insurance are intrastate because a combination of state and federal laws makes it illegal to purchase health insurance across state lines. Moreover, the object of the mandate isn't even commercial at all. Instead of regulating pre-existing commerce, the bill forces people to engage in commercial transactions they would have otherwise avoided."

"If the mandate qualifies as a tax merely because it punishes violators with a fine, then Congress could require Americans to do almost anything on pain of having to pay a fine if they refuse," Somin adds.

Somin joined five other debaters who participated in arguments regarding the new health care law in the New York Times' Room for Debate.

The Problem With Broad Definitions, The New York Times, December 14, 2010. By Ilya Somin.

Read Somin's argument and those of his fellow debaters

Read Somin's related comments on legal issues involving the new health care law and government power over property rights:

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