Deal W. Hudson
January 14, 2010
Three Virginia Catholics are leading the resistance against the encroaching power of the Obama White House.
As reported in the Washington Post, legislation has been introduced to curb federal power over health insurance, interstate commerce, and gun regulation. Three of the leaders behind this effort are pro-life Catholics: Robert G. Marshall, a delegate to the Virginia legislature; Attorney General-Elect Ken Cuccinelli; and Gov. Robert McDonnell. (It’s something of a historical irony that Catholics have risen to such prominence in a state which sought to exclude the Catholic faith at its founding.)
Marshall, from Prince William County in Northern Virginia, is convinced that “Obamacare is set to mug the country.” He recently introduced a bill (HB 10) asserting that the federal government has no right to require citizens to pay for private health insurance. The bill reads:
No law shall interfere with the right of a person or entity to pay for lawful medical services to preserve life or health, nor shall any law impose a penalty, tax, fee, or fine, of any type, to decline or to contract for health care coverage….
Marshall, like many Americans, objects to the Senate version of the health-care bill, which would require individuals to spend $15,000 annually on private health insurance or be fined up to $1,900. Refuse to pay the fine, and you could spend up to a year in jail and receive a $25,000 fine.
Marshall recognizes that the federal government has the power to regulate matters affecting interstate commerce, but he argues that this has nothing to do with an individual purchasing health insurance. For Obamacare to survive litigation, Marshall writes, “The Supreme Court would have to find that the absence of economic activity (not purchasing insurance) was itself a form of economic activity having a substantial effect on interstate commerce.”
The reasons for introducing HB 10 go beyond resisting federal power over health insurance. Marshall is concerned with its impact on contract law, “namely, its voluntary nature which underpins America’s entire business culture.” Neither mandated auto insurance nor the military draft justifies the federal government force-feeding its citizen’s health insurance: The former derives its rationale from the privilege of driving and the need to protect others on public roads, and the latter is expressly allowed by the Constitution.
What makes Obama’s health-care plan different from tax mandates, for Marshall, is that Congress already mandates tax payments like Social Security. This, however, is the first time Congress has attempted to force individual citizens to buy a specific product from a private company.
If the Congress can require individuals to buy private insurance for the “general welfare,” Marshall asks, what will keep it from mandating other purchases, such as “new windows or insulation to save the environment?” What about requiring states not to register “automobiles older than 2005 to minimize air pollution?”
Such possibilities are hardly preposterous – rather, they seem quite in line with the kind of paternalistic attitude coming from the party presently in power.
Conservative activists in Virginia are rallying to his cause. Steve Waters, the president of the Virginia Christian Alliance, told me, “Marshall, once again, has provided the critical leadership required to protect families in Virginia.” Mark Tate, a well-known Catholic consultant and activist, added, “Marshall is showing how individual states can stand up to this over-reaching unconstitutional legislation.”
As a matter of fact, Marshall’s effort, supported by both Cuccinelli and McDonnell, is starting to gain attention nationwide. Thus far, Marshall has been contacted by legislators from four other states – North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania – that may introduce similar legislation.
These three Catholic politicians from Virginia have won elections and risen to prominence without ever hedging their pro-life, pro-family views. Their success contradicts the advice almost always given by political consultants to candidates about “moderating” their view on social issues. This was a losing strategy in 2008, in both the Virginia congressional and presidential races.