Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has always had a loose relationship with the Constitution — his flagship proposal is a wildly unconstitutional bill stripping many Americans of their citizenship. Today, however, he took his belief that he alone has the power to rewrite the Constitution to a new level, telling right-wing talk show host G. Gordon Liddy that entirely uncontroversial insurance regulations violate the Constitution:
First of all [the Affordable Care Act] is unconstitutional. We can go through all of that component, Gordon, but, in the end, this trade off of giving up our personal decisions on what health insurance policy we choose to buy, what health insurance policy will be delivered to us because of market demands, and making decisions on doctors and tests and second opinions, as a whole list of things that are taken away from us under Obamacare. All of that, for what? So that we have a federal mandate that children must stay on our insurance until age 26? I want mine to grow up, as a matter of fact.
And then, going on down the line, preexisting conditions, the states can address that constitutionally far better than the federal government, and that’s how it should be addressed.
It’s clear from King’s error-laden rant against the Affordable Care Act that he hasn’t actually read the bill. Among other things, the law does not “mandate” that children must stay on their parents insurance until age 26. The law gives young adults the option of remaining on their parents insurance, but leaves them perfectly free to choose another insurance provider.
King’s reading of the Constitution is even more off base. While a number of litigants have filed meritless lawsuits falsely claiming that Congress cannot require people to either carry insurance or pay slightly more income taxes, even Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) concedes that the Act’s provision forbidding insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions “fall[s] within Congress’s power, pursuant to the Commerce Clause, to regulate the interstate health insurance market.” If King’s position were ever adopted by the Supreme Court, it would mean that the entire insurance industry would be immune from federal regulation.
And that’s the least of the problems with King’s argument. King’s core argument — that only the states and not the federal government are allowed to regulate a national market — is straight out of the tenther playbook. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) recently made an identical argument to claim that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also adopted King’s theory of the Constitution to claim that the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters must be tossed out.
Ironically, King’s amateurish foray into constitutional law comes on the same day that over 100 actual legal scholars signed a letter rejecting the absurd view that the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution. As they explain, the only way to strike down the law is to “jettison nearly two centuries of settled constitutional law.” If King were smart, he would consider consulting with one of them before he exposes his constitutional ignorance once again on a national broadcast.