For months, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) worked with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) to try to forge a health care reform bill that could gain bipartisan support. Over the summer, President Obama showered praise on Grassley, saying that he was “sincerely” working towards finding a bipartisan solution. But over time, Grassley began to indicate that he was actually an opponent of reform. In August, he legitimized the “death panel” lie and sent a fundraising appeal asking for help in defeating “Obamacare.” Earlier this week, he voted against the Baucus health care bill.
Now, in an interview with NewsMaxTV, Grassley has truly moved to the fringe of reform opposition, saying that he thinks reform with an individual mandate might be unconstitutional:
GRASSLEY: Secondly, this is the first time in the 225 year history of our country that we have forced you as a constituent, any of our constituents, to buy a product. You know, you’ve been free to buy or not buy. But now for the first time you’re going to have to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, IRS is going to tax a family 1,500 dollars.
MARTELLA: In your view, is that constitutional, forcing somebody to buy it and punishing them through the IRS if they don’t.
GRASSLEY: I’m not a lawyer, but let me tell you, I’ve listened to some lawyers speak on this. And you know, it’s a relatively new issue. I don’t think we’ve ever had this issue before of having to buy something. And a lot of constitutional lawyers, saying it is unconstitutional or at least in violation of the 10th Amendment. Now maybe states can do this, but can the federal government? So, I have my doubts.
Grassley’s recent opposition to the individual mandate is surprising, considering that in June he said that “there isn’t anything wrong with” mandates and that he believed there was “a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.”
As Ian Millhiser has pointed out, claims that a mandate would be unconstitutional are weak tea. As the Supreme Court held in Gonzales v. Raich, the Constitution empowers Congress to enact broad regulatory schemes that “substantially affect interstate commerce.” This power includes authority to enact broad reforms that concern “economic activity,” and an individual mandate unquestionably falls within the scope of this power. As for Grassley’s claim that reform would violate the 10th Amendment, most tenthers overlook the fact that Article I of the Constitution empowers Congress “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”
Watch video of Grassley’s interview below (warning — video plays automatically):