She’s not a constitutional scholar, either

SHE’S NOT A CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR, EITHER…. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has come to the conclusion that health care reform, in addition to being a bad idea, is literally unconstitutional. She made the case on Monday night to Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

“[I]t is not within our power as members of Congress, it’s not within the enumerated powers of the Constitution for us to design and create a national takeover of health care. Nor is it within our ability to be able to delegate that responsibility to the executive.”

It’s hard to know where to start with this. My first thought was that reform doesn’t represent “a national takeover of health care.” My second was that I’ll look forward to Bachmann’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Medicare. I suspect, however, that such litigation is unlikely.

On a more substantive note, the Constitution empowers Congress to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,” to “provide for” the “general welfare” of the United States, and to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”

As Matthew DeLong noted, “I’m no constitutional scholar, but enacting laws to reform the health care system to help provide insurance to the roughly 45 million Americans currently going without sounds like it might be covered under a reasonable reading of the ‘general welfare’ clause.”

Ian Millhiser summarized the larger context nicely: “It’s important to note just how radical Bachmann’s theory of the Constitution is. If Congress does not have the power to create a modest public option which competes with private health plans in the marketplace, then it certainly does not have the authority to create Medicare. Similarly, Congress’ power to spend money to benefit the general welfare is the basis for Social Security, federal education funding, Medicaid, and veterans benefits such as the VA health system and the GI Bill. All of these programs would cease to exist in Michele Bachmann’s America.”

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.