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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Promote the “general Welfare” — Ginsburg rests case on Constitution

Supreme Court
of the United States
U.S. Supreme Court’s health care ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius
Excerpt, re-reporting by Carolyn Bennett 
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Preamble (1787) to the Constitution of the United States

“Today,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts began in issuing the opinion for the Court, “ we resolve constitutional challenges to two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010: the individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase a health insurance policy providing a minimum level of coverage; and the Medicaid expansion, which gives funds to the States on the condition that they provide specified health care to all citizens whose income falls below a certain threshold.”

From today’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business, et al., Petitioners 11–393 v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al., Department of Health and Human Services, et al.

“We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders.” Roberts said. “We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion (some of which I have excerpted) rested not on Americans’ or States’ Rights’ selfishness, individual problems, or personal anecdotes; but the “general Welfare” provision guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America.

“Far from trampling on States’ sovereignty, the ACA [Affordable Care Act] attempts a federal solution for the very reason that the States, acting separately, cannot meet the need. Notably, the ACA serves the general welfare of the people of the United States while retaining a prominent role for the States. …” (Page 36)

“Ultimately, the Court upholds the individual mandate as a proper exercise of Congress’s power to tax and spend “for the . . . general Welfare of the United States.” … I concur in that determination, which makes THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s Commerce Clause essay all the more puzzling. Why should THE CHIEF JUSTICE strive so mightily to hem in Congress’ capacity to meet the new problems arising constantly in our ever developing modern economy? I find no satisfying response to that question in his opinion.” (Page 37)

“Medicaid is a prototypical example of federal-state cooperation in serving the Nation’s general welfare. Rather than authorizing a federal agency to administer a uniform national health-care system for the poor, Congress offered States the opportunity to tailor Medicaid grants to their particular needs, so long as they remain within bounds set by federal law. In shaping Medicaid, Congress did not endeavor to fix permanently the terms participating states must meet; instead, Congress reserved the ‘right to alter, amend, or repeal’ any provision.” (Pages 38-39)

“The Spending Clause authorizes Congress ‘to pay the Debts and provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. To ensure that federal funds granted to the States are spent to ‘provide for the . . . general Welfare’ in the manner Congress intended,” ante, at 46, Congress must of course have authority to impose limitations on the States’ use of the federal dollars.

Supreme Court of the United States
“This Court, time and again, has respected Congress’ prescription of spending conditions, and has required States to abide by them. See, e.g., Pennhurst, 451 U. S., at 17 (‘[O]ur cases have long recognized that Congress may fix the terms on which it shall disburse federal money to the States.’). In particular, we have recognized Congress’ prerogative to condition a State’s receipt of Medicaid funding on compliance with the terms Congress set for participation in the program.

“…  Congress’ authority to condition the use of federal funds is not confined to spending programs as first launched.” (Page 45)

“…Yes, there are federalism-based limits on the use of Congress’ conditional spending power. In the leading decision in this area, South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U. S. 203 (1987), the Court identified four criteria.

“The conditions placed on federal grants to States must
(a) promote the ‘general welfare,’
(b) ‘unambiguously’ inform States what is demanded of them,
(c) be germane ‘to the federal interest in particular national projects or programs,’ and 
(d )not ‘induce the States to engage in activities that would themselves be unconstitutional.’…

“States, for their part, agreed to amend their own Medicaid plans consistent with changes from time to time made in the federal law. See 42 CFR §430.12(c)(i) (2011). And from 1965 to the present, States have regularly conformed to Congress’ alterations of the Medicaid Act.

“THE CHIEF JUSTICE acknowledges that Congress may ‘condition the receipt of [federal] funds on the States’ complying with restrictions on the use of those funds,’ ante, at 50, but nevertheless concludes that the 2010 expansion is unduly coercive. His conclusion rests on three premises, each of them essential to his theory. First, the Medicaid expansion is, in THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s view, a new grant program, not an addition to the Medicaid program existing before the ACA’s [Affordable Care Act] enactment. Congress, THE CHIEF JUSTICE maintains, has threatened States with the loss of funds from an old program in an effort to get them to adopt a new one. Second, the expansion was unforeseeable by the States when they first signed on to Medicaid. Third, the threatened loss of funding is so large that the States have no real choice but to participate in the Medicaid expansion. THE CHIEF JUSTICE therefore—for the first time ever—finds an exercise of Congress’ spending power unconstitutionally coercive. (Page 46)

“The principal standard the ACA [Affordable Care Act] sets is that the state program cover adults earning no more than 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Enforcing that prescription ensures that federal funds will be spent on health care for the poor in furtherance of Congress’ present perception of the general welfare. (Page 48)

“Congress has broad authority to construct or adjust spending programs to meet its contemporary understanding of “the general Welfare.” Helvering v. Davis, 301 U. S. 619, 640–641 (1937). (Page 50)

“At bottom, my colleagues’ position is that the States’ reliance on federal funds limits Congress’ authority to alter its spending programs.

“This gets things backwards: Congress, not the States, is tasked with spending federal money in service of the general welfare. And each successive Congress is empowered to appropriate funds as it sees fit. When the 110th Congress reached a conclusion about Medicaid funds that differed from its predecessors’ view, it abridged no State’s right to ‘existing,’ or ‘pre-existing,’ funds.” (Page 59)

Sources and notes

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (Nos. 11–393, 11–398 and 11–400)

FLORIDA, ET AL., PETITIONERS 11–400 v. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ET AL., ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT, [June 28, 2012], CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–C, an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAGAN join, and an opinion with respect to Parts III–A, III–B, and III–D.


John G. Roberts Jr.
Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Chief Justice Roberts took his seat as Chief Justice of the United States on September 29, 2005. Before that, he was a judge (appointed in 2003) on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

He was Special Assistant to the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice (1981–1982), Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, White House Counsel’s Office (1982–1986), and Principal Deputy Solicitor General, U.S. Department of Justice (1989–1993). Roberts was in private law practice in Washington, D.C., in the ears 1986–1989; and 1993–2003).

He took his academic credentials at Harvard College (A.B., 1976) and Harvard Law School (J.D., 1979); and clerked for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1979–1980) and for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States (during the 1980 Term).

Roberts was born January 27, 1955, in Buffalo, New York.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Justice Ginsburg took her seat on the Supreme of the United States on August 10, 1993. Before her appointment to the High Court, she was a Judge (appointed in 1980) of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In the 1970s, she launched the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from (1970, 1973–1980), and on the National Board of Directors (1974–1980).

In the 1960s, Ginsburg was a research associate, associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure (1961–1963); a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law (1963–1972) and Columbia Law School (1972–1980); and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California (1977–1978)

She took her academic credentials at Cornell University (B.A.), Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School (LL.B); and clerked for the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (from 1959–1961).

Justice Ginsburg was born March 15, 1933) in Brooklyn, New York.

About the Supreme Court of the United States, http://www.supremecourt.gov/about/biographies.aspx

Preamble to the Constitution of the United State reprinted at Britannica


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