One of the core arguments against Obamacare was its broad expansion of federal powers with the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Now that we know the federal government can compel us to engage in an activity and fine us for noncompliance as long as it is called a tax what does that mean for us?
This interpretation has led the Cato Institute to put forth some potential pieces of future legislation:
Federal Broccoli Act of 2013: Eat your broccoli, else pay the IRS $1,000.
Federal Recycling Act of 2014: Fill your blue box and put on the curb, else pay the IRS $2,000.
Federal Green Car Act of 2015: Make your next car battery powered, else pay the IRS $3,000.
Federal Domestic Jobs Act of 2016: Don’t exceed 25 percent foreign content on family consumer purchases, else pay the IRS $4,000.
If the individual mandate is a tax does that change the way Congress can act on it? Tim Carney thinks so.
But repealing the individual mandate takes only 51 votes (50, if a Republican is the vice president). You see, Senators can’t filibuster a bill passed under “budget reconciliation.” Since Chief Justice John Roberts ruled today that Obama’s individual mandate is a tax, Republicans, it seems to me, could simply lower the tax for not having health insurance down to $0.00, as a matter of budget reconciliation.
This ruling places the president and his supporters in an awkward position as they argued that the mandate was protected by the Commerce Clause while strongly maintaining that it was not a tax. Now, they are stuck with the court telling them that they were wrong on both counts but, hey, the law can still stand. This ruling opens the door for all kinds of future court and legislative battles.
Still, the remaking of the individual mandate as a tax does not change the radical nature of the federal government compelling individuals to purchase a good from a private entity. It is an unprecedented development and a staggering expansion in the federal government's power over individuals.
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