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How Calif. Lawmakers Think Court Should Rule on Affordable Care Act

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(Washington, D.C.)
Monday, March 26, 2012
By Matt Laslo
Northern California is represented by two respected legal minds and the two lawmakers couldn't disagree more on how the Supreme Court ought to rule on the constitutionality of the health care law. Let's start with Gold River Republican Congressman Dan Lungren. The former attorney general of California says the court ought to deal with the basic question of congressional power. 
LUNGREN:  "My hope is that they will focus on the question of the limitations of government reach contained in the Constitution in a foundational way and if they do I'm confident that they will rule in the direction that I would hope they will."
Lungren and other Republicans say the government has the power to regulate commerce - power granted under the Constitution's Commerce Clause. But they say it's an overreach for the government to force people into a monetary transaction, such as the mandate to purchase health insurance. Lungren says the individual mandate is a slippery slope. 
LUNGREN: "If in fact they find that there is this ability under the Commerce Clause then there are absolutely no limitations whatsoever so it's a fundamental question that they have to approach."
Democrats disagree. Four term U-S Senator Dianne Feinstein is the third highest ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. She says the foundation of the law is a belief that every American has an innate right to medicine and treatments.
FEINSTEIN: "The point that health care is a basic right then everybody is entitled to it."
When the health care law was being crafted in the back rooms of the Capitol party leaders decided not to include a government run insurance program…or public option… as a part of the package. But Democrats argued that without the public option the only way to move towards universal coverage was to include the individual mandate. Feinstein says if the court invalidates that mandate, the rest of law unravels like a cheap sweater.
FEINSTEIN: "It's clear to me that the whole plan only becomes viable with an individual mandate. You can't cut the cost without an individual mandate."
Fairfield Democrat John Garamendi argues that because health care makes up about one fifth of the U-S economy the court should rule that it fits under Congress' power to regulate commerce.
GARAMNEDI: "We think we have a strong argument under the Commerce Clause as a result of this is national, these issues move across state lines, and health care is not just a local issue it is a national issue."
Then there's the matter of the politics of the law and the court. Democrats disagree with what they say are recent politicized court decisions. And Republicans have been using the president's signature legislative accomplishment to unravel his support. While talk of "repeal" makes good campaign rhetoric it's much harder for the G-O-P to carry through with it in Washington. That's why the party has so much riding on the Supreme Court case. But Chico Republican Wally Herger says even if the court upholds the law his party isn't letting up.
HERGER2 "Oh, it's not our last stand. No we'll keep going. I mean this is very unpopular; this is very harmful to healthcare. We're not going to stop until we have it completely repealed."
Congress will be dealing with other issues this week, but every lawmaker will have one eye across the street on the majestic pillars of the Court. And as opinionated as politicians may be, few are willing to venture a guess as to how the court will rule.
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