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Public Statements

The Highest Court in the Land is the American People

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Speaker, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on the so-called Affordable Care Act, the House will once again take up the imperative of repealing it.

But the Supreme Court decision has much more dire implications for our Nation and for its cherished freedoms than merely affirming the government takeover of our health care. In reaching its conclusion, the Court obliterated the fundamental distinction between a penalty and a tax. Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes; and, therefore the Court reasons, it can apply a tax for any reason, even those otherwise outside the confines of the Constitution.

In this case, the Court ruled that Congress could not impose a law requiring citizens to purchase a government-approved health plan under the Commerce Clause, but it can impose exactly the same requirement as a tax. If it can't fine you for disobeying, it can certainly tax you for disobeying. Mr. Speaker, if the government fines you $250 for running a red light or taxes you $250 for running a red light, the effect is the same. What's the difference?

Actually, there are two critical differences. First, as a fine--as a penalty--the burden of proof is on the government to prove that you ran that red light. As a tax, the burden of proof is on you to show that you did not run it. Anyone who has ever undergone an IRS audit knows exactly what I mean. This decision fundamentally alters the most cherished principle of our justice system, the presumption of innocence.

There is a second even more chilling difference between a penalty and a tax. Under our Constitution, no penalty can be assessed without due process. You cannot be punished until you have had your day in court. But to challenge a tax, you must first pay that tax before you can seek redress through the court. You are punished first and then tried. This is the madness of Lewis Carroll's Red Queen brought to life: Sentence first--verdict afterwards.

Under this decision, Americans may now be coerced under the threat of the seizure of their property to take any action the Federal Government decrees without any constitutional constraint, enforceable in a manner that denies both presumption of innocence and due process of law. By this reasoning, it can now tax speech it finds offensive, tax people who choose not to go to church or people who do, tax people who own guns or people who don't. As long as we call it a tax under this decision, there are no limits to the power of the Federal Government.

I believe this decision will go down in history as one of the most deplorable ever rendered, taking a place of infamy next to Dred Scott.

If the Court has failed to defend our Constitution, then what appeal is left us? There is one. The Constitution does not belong to the Federal Government. Its ownership is made crystal clear in its first three words: ``We, the people.'' As Ronald Reagan said:

The Constitution is not the government's document telling us what we can and cannot do. The Constitution is the people's document telling our government those things that we will allow it to do.

Thus, the Supreme Court is not the highest court in the land. That position is reserved to the rightful owners of the Constitution, the sovereign American people through the votes that they cast every 2 years.

The infamous Alien and Sedition Acts were never struck down by the Court, but the American people did that in the election of 1800. The Supreme Court declared that American slaves were outside the protection of the Constitution when it struck down the Missouri Compromise, but the American people reversed that decision in the election of 1860.

Let us pray, while we still can--before that is taxed--that this infamous decision will be repudiated by what is actually and rightfully the highest court in the land, the American people.


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