A civics lesson for a House freshman

The notion of whether Americans have a “right” to health care can be a contentious philosophical point, even among Republicans. GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, for example, has said, “I think health care is a right.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), meanwhile, has called the very idea tantamount to “slavery.”

But since I rather like this larger discussion, I found it interesting to hear freshman Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R-Wis.) response when a constituent pressed him on this point. At a town-hall meeting this week, the Republican lawmaker argued:

“I believe that we have in our Constitution the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what I think our rights are. I want to work to make sure that we have health care that’s affordable — that people can actually access. And that’s what I’m working for right now.”

First, Duffy isn’t really “working for” this at all. He voted to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act and replace it with nothing, in addition to voting to gut Medicaid and end Medicare. If the confused congressman wants to “make sure that we have health care that’s affordable,” he has a very odd way of showing it.

Second, the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not in “our Constitution.” It’s in our Declaration of Independence. It’s a common mistake, but members of Congress should get it straight.

And third, if Duffy seriously believes the entirety of Americans’ scope of rights is limited to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he probably needs a remedial civics class. Has he not heard of the Bill of Rights? It spells out quite a few rights, which go well beyond those spelled out in the Declaration of Independence.