Health care reform faces hurdles

| Staff Columnist
MCT Campus

Well, the dust has barely settled around the passage of health care reform, and the debate is still going strong. President Obama signed the Senate’s bill Tuesday, and the Senate is now working on the budget reconciliation package that the House of Representatives passed. Given that the Senate bill is already facing challenges on electoral and legal fronts, we are clearly not done yet, but what could possibly be next?

For one, there were legal challenges to the bill before President Obama even signed it. I would be a fool at best and self-discrediting at worst if I were to try to divine how the courts would rule, but fortunately we know now that one of the primary challenges has been stopped in its tracks. In passing health care reform, the House did not use the controversial “deem and pass” rule that was more popularly referred to as the “Slaughter Solution.” This was the right decision; “deem and pass” would have been more divisive than reconciliation, not to mention extremely difficult to justify politically. While the rule does have precedent, it is one of the most obscure tactics House Democrats could have used. Further, it would have been a tough one to defend to the voters, since it would have looked like the House had passed health care reform without actually voting on it.

Naturally, there are still other possible challenges to the legislation, most notably the insurance mandate, according to a New York Times article on March 21. The article says that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would cite a law exempting Virginia from the mandate in his arguments. I am no legal expert, but that seems to lie contrary to the Supremacy Clause. Formally known as Article VI, Clause 2 of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause establishes federal law as having a greater influence than any state laws. This is why Mr. Cuccinelli has also tacked on a constitutional challenge, based on Congress’ ability to affect interstate commerce through the Commerce Clause. I do see where an argument could possibly be made that health insurance is only intrastate commerce, but we should leave it up to the courts to decide this matter.

Both parties will also have a showdown over health care reform at the polls in November’s midterm elections. It is just about given that the Democrats will be touting the benefits of the bill and the specific provisions that will come into effect this year. Thus, the more interesting point, at least for now, is what the Republicans are trying to do. In short, the GOP is going to try its hardest to repeal the legislation. As a political observer, I wish them luck. Not only do the Democrats have control of both the House and the Senate, but also the majority in the House of Representatives is widely considered to be safe.

Even if by some turn of events, the Republican Party manages to recapture both houses, there is still the matter of President Obama. It is well-established that the president has the power to veto anything he feels like, and the Republicans have very little chance of regaining standard majorities in both houses of Congress, much less the super-majorities needed to overcome a veto. Plus, how are the Republicans going to balance the value of a repeal against the provisions that have already taken effect? I for one will be angry if somehow a repeal succeeds; we need this health care reform. Given that it has been enacted via the established process, it should stand as law.

Charles is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at charles.herrera@wustl.edu.