This morning, Fox News hosted Minnesota state representative Tom Emmer (R), who came on to promote his Health Care Freedom Act. Emmer’s bill is essentially designed to block the implementation of federal health care reform in his state of Minnesota by proposing a new constitutional amendment that would allow the state to opt out of federal legislation.
When probed about the constitutionality of his amendment, Emmer implied to the host that “constitutional experts at the federal level” are wrong to interpret his bill as unconstitutional and spouted the “tenther” line that the Constitution doesn’t allow for a federal health care system:
EMMER: It’s interesting, because if you talk to constitutional experts at a federal level, they will tell you that the federal constitution will trump anything like this. But then the question has to be asked, why do we even bother to have a state constitution if the federal constitution, the U.S. constitution is gonna trump everything we do at the state level. It’d be meaningless. You might as well get rid of the state constitution.
There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that provides the federal government with the authority to establish a health care system.
While Emmer acts like there is an active debate over whether the federal law trumps state constitutions — an argument conservatives lost in the Civil War and the Civil Rights era — the actual text of the federal document is clear. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution explictly states, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
The fact that this sort of legislation is unconstitutional has not stopped the American Legislative Exchange Council, the massive corporate-funded group of conservative legislators, from pushing legislation like this all over the country. Conservatives in at least six states are pushing legislation that leans on a distorted reading of the Tenth Amendment to block federal health care reform.
Alaska state rep. Mike Kelly is introducing a measure in his state to “prohibit passage of laws that compel any person or employer to participate in a particular health care system.” The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner offers some background on Kelly:
It isn’t the first time Kelly has emphasized state independence from the federal government. Last year he introduced a resolution that declared Alaska’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. It ultimately was approved by the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Sarah Palin.