The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives was apparently dumbfounded recently when a reporter asked about the constitutional authority for requiring people to buy health insurance, as mandated in the healthcare reform bills before Congress.
As reported on CNSNews.com, the exchange between the reporter and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was as follows:
"Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?"
"Are you serious? Are you serious, came the Speaker's inscrutable reply.
"Yes, yes I am," the CNSNews.com reporter answered. Pelosi then simply shook her head and took a question from another reporter. Pelosi's press secretary, Nadeam Elshami, later said that asking the Speaker where the Constitution authorized the mandate in the health bills was not "a serious question."
"You can put this on the record," the news organization quotes Elshami as saying. "That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question." The spokesperson later responded to written follow-up questions, CNSNews.com reported, with an e-mailed press release on the "Constitutionality of Health Insurance Reform," claiming congressional authority for the mandate may be found in its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.
A "Health Insurance Reform Daily Mythbuster" press release, originally issued from Pelosi's office on September 16, claims one of the "myths" about the House bill called "America's Affordable Health Choices Act" is what Pelosi called "the nonsensical claim that the federal government has no constitutionally valid role in reforming our health care system--apparently ignoring the validity of Medicare and other popular federal health care reforms." The Speaker acknowledged that under the House bill "individuals must either purchase coverage (and non-exempt employers must purchase coverage for their workers)--or pay a modest penalty for not doing so. The bill uses the tax code to provide a strong incentive for Americans to have insurance coverage and not pass their emergency health care costs onto other Americans--but it allows them to pay their way out of that obligation. There is no constitutional problem with these provisions," she concluded.
Pelosi categorized as "myth" the argument that the …