ObamaCare: Liberty Lost the Battle, But the War’s More Winnable Than Ever

Conservatives were right about John Roberts.
Not this year, obviously: nobody expected the Chief Justice to fall for the White House’s most laughable justification of ObamaCare’s individual mandate. But we were right in 2005, when George W. Bush nominated the blank-slate jurist to the Supreme Court. Ann Coulter warned us that “stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives.” I’ve previously voiced my fear that Roberts worships at the altar of stare decisis.
Despite Roberts’ reasoning, the mandate is manifestly nota tax. As the bill’s text and legislative history clearly show, it’s a penalty expressly justified as a regulation of interstate commerce. Barack Obama himself emphatically denied that it was a tax. Hell, the Court itself acknowledged it’s not a tax—for the purpose of ruling on a different part of ObamaCare. As Anthony Kennedy’s dissenting opinion says, “to say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it.” (To say nothing of the real elephant in the room: even if it was a tax, it still wouldn’t fall under enumerated powers.)
Jay Cost looks on the bright side: the Court rejected the mandate’s Commerce and Necessary & Proper Clause rationales, which sets valuable precedent. They also affirmed that states can’t be denied Medicaid funds for noncompliance.
That’s all well and good…but is one constitutional provision really protected when government can get away with the same thing by simply calling it something else? Brent Bozell is right: “there will be no rehabilitating” of John Roberts’ new image “as a traitor to his philosophy.” Thanks, Dubya!
Make no mistake: today was a defeat for constitutional fidelity, individual liberty, limited government, and true healthcare reform. But the American people may yet have the last laugh.
The general public deeply, deeply opposes ObamaCare, and doctors keep reaffirming that it’ll make American healthcare worse. The Court just guaranteed that a clear loser for Obama will remain a prominent issue throughout the rest of the campaign. We’re already seeing signs that conservatives are giving Mitt Romney a much-needed enthusiasm boost.
Beyond that, the ruling added two brand-new wrinkles to the narrative, neither of which works to Team Obama’s benefit. First, the mandate can now be characterized as a tax increase, an argument Sen. Marco Rubio is already expertly deploying. Second, Obama now has a new circle to square: were you lying about the mandate not being a tax then, or are you lying now?
Hopefully Romney will incorporate these details into his rhetoric sooner rather than later (his pre-scripted reaction to the ruling desperately needs a tune-up). Either way, the bottom line is that it’s more important than ever for conservatives to dedicating ourselves to keeping the House, retaking the Senate, and—and here’s the part some conservatives still want to suicidally ignore—retaking the White House. Only by electing Mitt Romneycan we hope to repeal ObamaCare and appoint justices with greater respect for the Constitution.
Let’s get to work.

New on Live Action – Has the OK Supreme Court Inadvertently Put the "Right to Choose" on the Fast Track to Oblivion?

Check out my latest Live Action post:
Pro-aborts may have declared victory in the wake of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the Oklahoma Personhood Act, but according to Personhood USA President Keith Mason, pro-lifers are the ones who should be celebrating, since the decision puts personhood on the fast track to the highest court in the land:

The Oklahoma Court’s decision relied heavily on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and in moving to deny the people’s right to petition on behalf of the preborn, they have turned this case into a federal issue, deciding “the only recourse available to this Court is to follow…the United States Supreme Court.” The ruling has set us up for a direct challenge to Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The Oklahoma Court ruling has, inadvertently, propelled the Personhood movement several years forward!
The implications of this case are enormous! Not only will the Personhood movement receive more exposure, which results in an unmatched opportunity for education and saving babies’ lives, but there is a very real chance for victory. The Oklahoma case could be the first to directly and successfully challenge Planned Parenthood v. Casey, dismantling the abortion stronghold in America, and demanding basic human rights for every single human being. This is cause for celebration!

The Oklahoma high court called the measure “clearly unconstitutional,” claiming the Supremes’ prior rulings on abortion have settled the issue. If the Supreme Court were to hear the case, they’d be taking the explosive step of reconsidering Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s central proposition: that the Constitution protects the “right to choose” abortion. That’s a high-risk/high-reward proposition, to put it mildly.
Read the rest at Live Action.

New on Live Action – Rethinking the Intersection of Church, State, and the Right to Life

My latest Live Action post:
When pro-aborts can’t win the argument with biological shell games and character assassination, they usually resort to disqualifying pro-life opinions from consideration by labeling them violations of America’s separation of church and state. So it’s worth spending some time on a broader look at the way abortion politics intertwine with religion.
Contrary to the insistence of abortion defenders, the case against abortion is not exclusively theological. It has two core factors: the empirical observation that individual human life begins at fertilization, and the moral/philosophical proposition that all human beings have an equal claim to live.
Clearly, the former point has nothing to do with religion. Admitting that zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are live human beings is simple biology. If protecting the right to life after birth isn’t “imposing religion,” then neither is concluding that such shared humanity entitles the pre-born to be included in that same protection. Indeed, pro-lifers are just advocating for a broader, more consistent application of the general right-to-life principle the rest of society already accepts, albeit selectively.
Read the rest at Live Action.

New at Live Action – Bogus Church-State Ruling Defunds Bishops’ Aid to Sex-Trafficking Victims

My latest Live Action post:
As if we didn’t have enough on our plate with the battle over forced contraception coverage, the Obama administration is currently embroiled in another religious fight, this time with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over federal aid money for sex-trafficking victims.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides money to fund medical and mental health services for victims of sex trafficking, and since 2006, the bishops have been allowed to limit the money they receive to contractors who are uninvolved in abortion. But in its infinite wisdom and compassion, the current administration has decided to revoke the bishops’ grant money entirely rather than keep funding their charitable work. Now a federal judge has ruled against the bishops:

Although the nation’s Catholic bishops said the ACLU lawsuit is “without merit and an affront to religious liberty,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns ruled on March 23 that the government’s accommodation of the decision not to make abortion referrals is unconstitutional. Stearns, a Massachusetts judge, said the government violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “insofar as they delegated authority to a religious organization to impose religiously based restrictions on the expenditure of taxpayer funds, and thereby impliedly endorsed the religious beliefs of the USCCB and the Catholic Church.”
Stearns also said is not about forcing the bishops to violate their pro-life views but about “the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”

As a matter of policy, HHS’s decision is indefensible. It’s disgusting enough when the government funds abortion directly, but to throw out all of an organization’s charitable work, which is achieving the stated goal of helping sex-trafficking victims, simply because that organization’s members don’t want to be complicit in abortion?
Read the rest at Live Action.

So What’s This About Muskets and the Commerce Clause?

In their desperation to make ObamaCare’s individual mandate not seem blatantly illegal, liberals have taken to citing a 1792 law requiring Americans to purchase muskets as proof that they’re not stretching the Commerce Clause beyond the Founders’ intent. Too bad for them that Randy Barnett at Volokh nuked that argument over a month ago:
5. At the hearing, Professor Dellinger mentioned that Congress had once passed a law requiring individual male citizens to provide themselves with muskets, gear and uniforms of a certain specification. I believe Professor Dellinger was referring to the Militia Act of 1792, which required all able-bodied male citizens, 18 years of age or older, to be enrolled in a militia and provide themselves with certain supplies for that service. 
a. Do you believe Congress most likely relied on its Commerce Clause powers in passing that statute?
Congress was relying on its Article I, section 8 power “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States . . . ” The militia power, and the duty of a citizen to serve, pre-existed the formation of national government.
b. Do you believe the Militia Act of 1792 would have been a permissible exercise of Congress’ authority if it were based solely on Congress’ Commerce Clause powers?
It would not.
c. In your testimony, you alluded to jury duty, selective service registration and several other actions the federal government requires of each individual citizen. You described these as traditionally-recognized requirements that were necessary for the continued function of the government itself. In 1792, the United States did not have a permanent standing army. Do you think service in the militia was among those traditionally-recognized requirements necessary for the continued function of government? 
Without question, it was considered a fundamental duty of citizenship. Congress is now seeking to add an new and unprecedented duty of citizenship to those which have traditionally been recognized: the duty to engage in economic activity when Congress deems it convenient to its regulation of interstate commerce. And the rationales offered to date for such a duty would extend as well to the performance of any action, whether economic or not, when Congress deems it convenient to the exercise of its power over interstate commerce. The recognition of so sweeping a duty would fundamentally alter the relationship of American citizens to the government of the United States.

New at Live Action – Oklahoma Judge Nixes Ultrasound Law, Pretends Abortion Is Healthcare

Check out my latest Live Action post:
Not every case can be a winner. In Oklahoma, District Judge Bryan Dixon has invalidated the state’s law requiring abortionists to show their patients ultrasound images and read them descriptions of their babies before performing abortions:

District Judge Bryan Dixon ruled the statute passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2010 is an unconstitutional special law, and is [sic] can’t be enforced because it addresses only patients, physicians and sonographers dealing with abortions without addressing other medical care.

In response, Oklahomans for Life Chairman Tony Lauinger points out that “abortion is different than any other procedure,” and therefore regulations on it shouldn’t necessarily have to be uniform with other procedures. Which seems like basic common sense—even similar medical procedures and conditions can have a wide range of differing nuances and circumstances, requiring different considerations. Why should a judge be able to keep Oklahoma from taking those differences into account?
Read the rest at Live Action.

New at Live Action – Kansas Judges in Hot Water for Donating to Pro-Life Cause

A bit of a scandal is brewing in Kansas over two sitting judges, Eric Yost and Jeffrey Goering, who have each donated $100 to the Kansans for Life PAC, yet have not recused themselves from abortion-related cases. This is perfectly legal in Kansas, but not everyone is satisfied:

“Judges are held to the highest conduct standards, and they should be,” said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. “The best practice is going to be to avoid contributing to political organizations because of the inevitable appearance of partiality that those kinds of donations create.”
Kansas Sen. John Vratil, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an attorney, said he wants to examine the state’s rule for political contributions by judges.
“It can’t be good for the judiciary because it reflects on their impartiality,” Vratil said.
While the Kansas Code of Judicial Ethics broadly prohibits activities that appear to present a conflict of interest, it also specifically allows judges chosen in partisan elections – as Yost and Goering were – to make contributions to political organizations “at any time.”

The federal court system’s Code of Conduct forbids judges from contributing to specific parties and candidates for office, but doesn’t explicitly say they can’t donate to issue-based organizations.
Read the rest at Live Action.