It seems that Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has picked up the crazy bug from Michelle Bachmann or something, and according to Minnesota Public Radio thinks the Tenth Amendment makes universal health care unconstitutional:
“Depending on what the federal government comes out with here, asserting the 10th Amendment may be a viable option,” Pawlenty said, when asked about it by a caller on a Republican Governors Association conference call. “But we don’t know the details. As one of the other callers said, we can’t get the President to outline what he does or doesn’t support in any detail. So we’ll have to see, I would have to say that it’s a possibility.”
Pawlenty made it clear that he and other Republican governors will be more assertive about the 10th Amendment: “I think we can see hopefully see a resurgence in claims and maybe even bring up lawsuits if need be.”
As my colleague Ian Millhiser points out there’s a kind of longstanding sentiment on the conservative fringe that the Tenth Amendment actually means almost everything the federal government does is unconstitutional. The question for practical politicians embracing this “tenther” doctrine is how far do they push it. I can see a reading of the Tenth Amendment such that Obama’s health proposals are unconstitutional, but that same reading implies that Medicare and Medicaid and sundry other uncontroversial programs are also unconstitutional. If Pawlenty wants to make his stand on that idea, more power to him. But one senses a lot of opportunism and silliness in these sporadic invocations of state sovereignty.
Also note that the broad view that the federal government has no authority to do anything other than field a military and establish post offices and post roads doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of innovative, “Sam’s Club conservatism” that we’ve occasionally been told Pawlenty represents. This is old-school, John Calhoun conservatism.