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Incoming House Judiciary Chair Said That Medicare And Social Security Are Unconstitutional

By Ian Millhiser

"Incoming House Judiciary Chair Said That Medicare And Social Security Are Unconstitutional"

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The Hill reports that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is expected to take over the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee in January, replacing Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) who will lose his gavel due to term limits. Goodlatte is a hardliner on immigration who is expected to oppose immigration reform bills that fall under his committee’s jurisdiction, and he also embraces a far right “tenther” vision of the Constitution that would render most of what the United States government does unconstitutional. Indeed, in a town hall meeting in 2011, the incoming House Judiciary Chair claimed that Medicare and Social Security both violate the Constitution.

As video of the town hall meeting reveals, Goodlatte called these landmark programs unconstitutional in response to a question from a constituent regarding a chart Goodlatte displayed breaking down federal spending:

CONSTITUENT: I have three points I’d like you to elaborate on if you could. I’ve searched my Constitution for 20 years and I can’t find Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security in there. Those are forced on the American people by the courts. Now, we’ve all accepted that and American people have bought into that, but it’s unconstitutional simple as that, to me, I can’t find it –

GOODLATTE: Well, it’s not in the Constitution. The courts have stretched the Constitution to say its in the general welfare clause.

Just in case there was any ambiguity to Goodlatte’s understanding of our founding document, he reiterated his belief that Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional in a later exchange with a different constituent:

CONSTITUENT: Everything that the federal government does on that pie chart is unconstitutional [...] If I violated my marriage contract the way the federal government violates the Constitution I’d be in divorce court tomorrow!

GOODLATTE: I hope you’re not. Here’s the deal. You’re absolutely right! But you have one problem, the Supreme Court ruling that these programs are constitutional.

Watch both exchanges:

To be fair to Goodlatte, he later states that it would not be practical to “just say we’re throwing out Medicare because its unconstitutional,” but this does little to change the fact that the man House Republicans want to place in charge of constitutional matters does not have even the most basic understanding of the Constitution. As ThinkProgress previously explained, The Constitution gives Congress the power to “to lay and collect taxes” and to “provide for the . . . general welfare of the United States.” There is no plausible interpretation of the words “general welfare” that does not include programs that ensure that all Americans can live their entire lives secure in the understanding that retirement will not force them into poverty and untreated sickness.

Moreover, Goodlatte’s constitutional objections to Medicare and Social Security are not his only admission that he does not understand the Constitution as written. In January of 2011 he was asked whether he believes the federal minimum wage is constitutional. He said that he did not know.

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