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Freshman Class on Obamacare

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GOWDY. I thank the gentleman from New York, and

I thank my colleague and friend from South Carolina, Mr. Duncan, my colleague and friend from Georgia, Mr. Scott, my colleague and friend from the great State of Florida, Colonel West, all of whom are experts, Mr. Speaker, on the policy of ObamaCare.

I want to talk to you about something other than policy. I want to talk to you about the law. But I'm going to concede up front, Mr. Speaker, that having health insurance is a wise idea. Having health insurance is a really, really good idea.

Walking over from the Longworth office building just a few minutes ago, Mr. Speaker, I passed two dozen people who were out jogging or otherwise exercising, and I can't help but conclude exercising is a wise idea. But Congress has not mandated exercise, not yet at least. The week's not over with yet. But so far we have not mandated exercise, despite the fact that it is a good policy.

Mr. Speaker, I couldn't help, in talking to my wife tonight, to be reminded that remembering our spouses' birthdays is also a wise idea. So far, although the week is not over with yet, Congress has not mandated that we remember our spouses' anniversaries.

So, up front, let's acknowledge there's a difference between being a good idea and being a constitutional idea, because, Mr. Speaker, what my question is for Colonel West from Florida that I will ask initially rhetorically, and then I'd like him to answer it, is: Can Congress make you eat beets? Because beets are good for you, Mr. Speaker. You know that. You're a physician. What you eat matters. Can Congress make you eat okra? Can it make you eat cabbage? And if not, why not?

If all we're here to talk about is whether or not something is a good idea and there are no constitutional limits to what Congress can do, then my question is: Why not? Why can't we just debate this on the basis of public policy?

And the answer, Mr. Speaker, is this: Because we have a Constitution which is the supreme law of the land, and the Constitution has specific enumerated powers of what Congress can and, by absence, cannot do. And the Commerce Clause says that Congress can regulate commerce among the several States. And that's what this administration will be arguing this week, that that one phrase, that Congress can regulate commerce among the several States, gives this body the power to force everyone to purchase a private product, that being health insurance.

So my question to you, Mr. Speaker, is this: If health insurance is a good idea, how about life insurance? Because heaven knows we don't need any more generational debt in this country, Mr. Speaker. It is not fair to pass on debt to subsequent generations. So, before this week is done, why don't we mandate life insurance?

And I've seen study after study after study that good oral health is tantamount to good overall health. So why don't we, before the week is over with, Mr. Speaker, mandate that everyone must purchase dental insurance? If not, why not?

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I was a prosecutor in a former life, so I took great note of two Supreme Court cases, Lopez and Morrison. In Lopez, this body passed the Gun Free School Zone Act, saying we don't want guns on junior high and high school campuses. And the Supreme Court of the United States said, that may be a laudatory public policy position, but Congress has no business regulating the campus of high schools and junior high schools.

Mr. Speaker, Congress also--and this issue is very near and dear to my heart because I come from a State that has struggled mightily with the issue of domestic violence.

We have struggled mightily with that.

So Congress passed a federalized Violence Against Women Act. In the United States v. Morrison, the Supreme Court said that is a very laudable public policy. But the Commerce Clause of the Constitution does not give you the power to tell the several States how to handle domestic violence, and they struck it down.

So we've got to, in this country, somehow find a way to separate what is good public policy from what is the law of the land, because, Mr. Speaker, I will tell you this: if the Supreme Court says that Congress can make you purchase a private product like health insurance, then I beg someone to tell me what are the limits to what we can tell people to do.

Can we make them exercise? We all know that's good for you. If I've got to subsidize the health of people who are obese or have hypertension, why can't I make them exercise? Because this is America, and Congress can't make you exercise. They can encourage you to do it, but they can't make you do it.

Congress can't make you buy dental insurance, and Congress can't make you buy life insurance, and Congress can't make you exercise or get out of the rain when there's lightning. There are lots of things that we ought to do that Congress can't make us do.

If the Supreme Court says that Congress can make you purchase health insurance, Mr. Speaker, that is the end of federalism in this country. There are no limits to what this body can make its citizens do if this law were upheld.

I thank the gentleman from New York, and I thank my other colleagues.


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