House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has some fun with Robert Gibb’s “professional left” comments in this morning’s USA Today. Noting Missouri’s recent ballot initiative repudiating the individual health insurance mandate, Boehner lampoons the Democrats for passing reform over the objections of the voters. “This is the first time in American history that Congress has passed a law mandating that you buy something simply because you’re breathing,” he writes:
Yet the Professional Left running our government isn’t listening to Missourians or anyone else. The Obama administration is fighting to stay in the business of forcing you to buy health insurance and taxing you if you don’t. The law itself cites the power to regulate “commerce.” Democrats compare it with how nearly all states require car owners to purchase auto insurance. You don’t need to purchase a car. You do need to breathe.
But breathing is precisely the point! While you have no need for auto insurance if you don’t have a car, everyone’s body needs to breathe and will eventually stop breathing or have trouble breathing. Mandatory health insurance will protect individuals from this eventuality by requiring those who can afford insurance to take responsibility for their own health and purchase it. As Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) explained in June of 2009, “when it comes to states requiring it for automobile insurance, the principle then ought to lie the same way for health insurance. Because everybody has some health insurance costs, and if you aren’t insured, there’s no free lunch. Somebody else is paying for it.” “So I think individual mandates are more apt to be accepted by a vast majority of people in Congress than an employer mandate,” he added. “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.”
The mandate also isn’t as “unprecedented” as Boehner suggests. Republicans — like Grassley — supported the requirement in the 1990s, but the government has been compelling individuals to purchase certain goods since the old days of the Republic. As Ian Millhiser explains, “the Second Militia Act of 1792, required a significant percentage of the U.S. civilian population to purchase a long list of military equipment.” This Act became law only a few years after the Constitution was ratified, in President George Washington’s first term. Many of the Members of Congress who voted for the Act also were members of the Philadelphia Convention that wrote the Constitution.