Wisconsin Poised to Fight ObamaCare
This week, Scott Walker made history by becoming the 45th governor in Wisconsin history and the first Republican since Scott McCallum assumed power in 2001 from Tommy Thompson. As one of his first acts, Walker provided Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen with the authority to file a lawsuit against ObamaCare. In so doing, Wisconsin joins 20 other states in filing suit against the controversial health care legislation approved by Congress last March.
By filing suit against the federal government, the State of Wisconsin and Governor Walker have pledged to protect state sovereignty, prevent government intrusion into the lives of individual citizens, and uphold the core tenets of the Tenth Amendment. ObamaCare, in its current form, also violates the “Commerce Clause” of the U.S. Constitution by requiring that every American purchase a government-approved health insurance policy by 2016.
Background. State Attorneys General throughout the United States have filed suit against the Patient Protection Affordability Care Act of 2010 on the grounds that the legislation violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Constitutionality argument against ObamaCare proposes that the Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from enacting any legislation that coerces citizens or states into purchasing goods or services.
The most controversial element of ObamaCare, and the subject of the aforementioned lawsuits, is the individual mandate provision, which specifies that nearly every American will be required to purchase government-approved health insurance by the year 2016. Failure to comply will result in a monetary penalty of $750 (the “tax,” as it is referred to by the Obama administration, is expected to reach this monetary value by 2016) or two percent of one’s income.
Attorneys General from both major parties are in agreement that the individual mandate provision of ObamaCare violates the Tenth Amendment. Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican, and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, a Democrat, are in agreement that the individual mandate provision is an unprecedented exercise of state power. Never before in American history has Congress required individuals to purchase a product to qualify as a law-abiding citizen.
State Nullification of ObamaCare. In addition to filing suit against the individual mandate provision of ObamaCare, several state Attorneys General have advocated the nullification of the entire ObamaCare program. Nullification is a process by which individual states attempt to invalidate a federal law or legislation that it deems unconstitutional. Even if the U.S. Congress fails to repeal the entire law (which would almost certainly require overriding a presidential veto), the states could effectively undermine its execution one piece at a time.
At the time of this writing, eight states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas—have already introduced legislation that nullifies ObamaCare. On November 2, 2010, the voters of Arizona overwhelmingly approved Proposition 106, a state Constitutional amendment that effectively nullified ObamaCare. Proposition 106 was approved by a resounding margin, 55% to 45%. Arizona is the only state so far that has passed legislation and a Constitutional amendment to nullify ObamaCare. In addition to filing suit against ObamaCare on Constitutional grounds, another option for the Wisconsin leadership would be to consider pursuing nullification measures.
Action in Wisconsin. Scott Walker, throughout his gubernatorial campaign, pledged that if elected, he would challenge the legality and Constitutionality of ObamaCare, and his instructions to Van Hollen came only hours after his inauguration this week. In his letter of instructions, Walker stated that the individual mandate provision was unprecedented and unconstitutional. Bill Cosh, spokesman for Attorney General Van Hollen, told reporters on Monday that no decision has been made yet as to whether or not Wisconsin would join the lawsuit filed by twenty other states or even file its own suit. But due to the difficulty and cost associated with filing an independent suit, it appears likely that Wisconsin will join the existing group action.
Van Hollen is therefore poised to challenge the Constitutionality of ObamaCare on the grounds that it violates state sovereignty guaranteed under the Tenth Amendment, and it appears that the Republican-dominated Wisconsin government is also in a good position to initiate nullification procedures even if U.S. Congressional resistance fails.
Conclusion. Drastic changes should be expected in the political culture in Madison. Among the foremost priorities of the new administration is filing suit against the federal government in regards to ObamaCare’s violation of state sovereignty. Governor Walker and Attorney General Van Hollen are poised to challenge the federal government’s usurpation of power and fight for individual liberty and states’ rights. In the upcoming legislative session, Governor Walker should consider urging legislators to prevent the federal government from interfering with state affairs and the individual freedoms of Wisconsin citizens.
The Wisconsin section of the Weekly Political Forecast is authored by PAI’s Deputy Policy Director.