by Michael Maharrey
Opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with its embedded health insurance mandates, has stirred a widespread revival of interest in the Tenth Amendment and state sovereignty issues.
The passage of the health care act opened the eyes of many previously apathetic citizens, making them aware of the rapidly expanding scope and influence of the federal government and its intrusiveness intoÂ their everyday lives. They intuitively understand that requiring them to purchase health insurance falls far beyond the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution. Suddenly awake and alarmed by the fact that the federal government has grown so far out of control, and frustrated by what they see as the lack of responsiveness by politicians in D.C., many Americans find themselves looking for answers.
And they are turning to their states.
Fourteen states have sued, seeking to block implementation of the unconstitutional health care act. Twelve states, led by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed in federal court in Pensacola.
“The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage,”Â the lawsuit states.
But some states are asserting their own authority to block unconstitutional acts, recognizing that federal courts don’t stand as the sole arbiter of constitutionality.
On Nov. 16, Texas Representative Leo Berman (R-Tyler) filed a bill in the Texas House of Representatives that would nullify federal health care legislation in the the Lone Star State. HB-297 asserts:
The federal Act is not authorized by the United States Constitution and violates the Constitution’s true meaning and intent as expressed by the founders of this country and the ratifiers of the Constitution.
The federal Act:
(1)Â Â is invalid in this state;
(2)Â Â is not recognized by this state;
(3)Â Â is specifically rejected by this state; and
(4)Â Â is null and void and of no effect in this state.
The bill takes things a step further, making it a crime for any official, agent, or employee of the United States or an employee of any corporation to enforce any part of the health care act in Texas, and imposes fines up to $5,000Â and/or five years in prison for anyone convicted of doing so.
While some might call this legislation radical, it rests squarely within the scope of state power as understood by the framers of the Constitution. James Madison wrote in the Virginia Resolution of 1798 that states not only have a right, but a duty to step in when the federal government oversteps its authority.
That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.
Tenth Amendment Center founder Michael Boldin said that Berman’s bill does not represent an extreme viewpoint and insists each state should determine the best path for its own citizens.
â€œThere is nothing more extreme than having a federal government that refuses to abide by the laws that we the people of the several states delegated to it in the Constitution,â€ he said. â€œThe important point here is that it’s up to the people of each state to determine what the best response may be. One state, as Wyoming did with its Firearms Freedom Act, may decide that penalties on federal agents is the rightful response.Â Another, such as California with medical marijuana, may choose to create an environment conducive to non-compliance by masses of people. Either way – or somewhere in between – that’s the beauty of the American system.Â We can have widely varying actions, responses and viewpoints in different states while all living together in peace. One-size-fits-all solutions are actually the problem, and state-by-state decision-making is the natural response.â€
Berman said that his bill faces an uphill battle as long as the current Texas House leadership remains in place. The legislation will likely end up bottled up in committee.
â€œThe best chance for passage is to get rid of the current Speaker,â€ Berman said.
That speaker is Rep. Joe Straus (R â€“ San Antonio)
Straus did not respond to an email request for comment.
Despite the fact that the bill faces long odds for passage, Boldin said introducing this type of legislation remains important,
â€œWhether or not there’s any guarantee of getting something passed is no reason to not do what’s right,â€ he said. â€œChampions look at insurmountable odds and take them on with passion, and that’s what We the People need to do in defense of our liberty.â€
And its about baby steps. Boldin said he views the dismantling of an overreaching, bloated federal government a long-term project.
â€œDealing with a constitutional monstrosity like Obamacare is going to take time. In the mid-90s, people around the country were saying that it was absurd for California to go it alone and try to pass a medical marijuana law. But they did, and today, weÂ see 15 states openly defying the federal government on this issue,â€ he said. â€œThe blueprint is straightforward – when enough people say no to the federal government and enough states do so as well, there’s not much that the feds can do to enforce their unconstitutional ‘laws’ on us.â€
â€œShould an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassment created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, very serious impediments; and were the sentiments of several adjoining States happen to be in Union, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.â€
Texas has taken the first step. Now the people of Texas need to rise up and insist on passage of the bill. Ultimately, the people’s voice will carry the day.
The question remains, will they speak?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Texas is the first state to see the Federal Health Care Nullification Act introduced. Sources close to the Tenth Amendment Center tell us to expect up to 10 other states considering such legislation in the 2011 legislative session. CLICK HERE – to learn more about the bill and track progress of the act around the country.