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‘Are you serious?’

When a reporter for CNSNews.com last Thursday asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., where the Constitution delegates Congress the specific power to order Americans to buy health insurance — a mandate included in both the House and Senate versions of Obamacare — Ms. Pelosi responded: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

“Yes, yes I am,” the reporter for CNSNews.com replied.

Ms. Pelosi shook her head and took a question from another reporter, never giving an answer. Her spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, then advised CNSNews.com that asking the speaker of the House where the Constitution authorized Congress to mandate that individual Americans buy health insurance was not a “serious question.”

“You can put this on the record,” said Mr. Elshami. “That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question.”

Other members of Congress seemed even more confused by the inquiry.

“Well, that’s under certainly the laws of the — protect the health, welfare of the country,” said Sen. Roland Burris, Barack Obama’s appointed replacement to the U.S. Senate, in answer to the same question. “That’s under the Constitution. We’re not even dealing with any constitutionality here. … What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.” In fact, the word “health” appears nowhere in the Constitution.

In the 1925 case Linder v. United States, Dr. Charles Linder had been convicted of prescribing morphine and cocaine to addicts, which the federal government held was not a legitimate medical practice. Dr. Linder appealed, and the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction, holding the federal government had no such power to regulate the practice of medicine.

The Linder case is often described as having been partially overruled or superseded. But the Constitution has never been amended to authorize such federal regulation. In fact, the rationale of the Linder case was used to stop the Department of Justice from interfering with Oregon’s assisted suicide law in the 2006 case Gonzales v. Oregon.

The question is inescapable: Even if we assume these delegates arrive in Washington in a state of honesty and grace, only to be corrupted later, why is it that — required on their very first day to swear a solemn oath to “protect and defend the Constitution” — not one of them has ever said, “Well, hold on, there. No, I don’t think I will agree to let my powers be bound by some 200-year-old scribbling, designed to limit our powers. The only thing I’m here to ‘protect and defend’ is the power of Congress to do anything we damn well please”?

Instead, presumably, Ms. Pelosi and her staff — and senators such as Mr. Burris — plan to deal with any ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, rebuking Congress for trying for the first time in history to require every American adult to buy some good or service against their will — with a disbelieving glare and six words:

“Are you serious? Are you serious?”

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