Durbin Chairs Hearing on the Constitutionality of the Health Care Law

Durbin Chairs Hearing on the Constitutionality of the Health Care Law

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) chaired the first-ever Congressional hearing examining the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act today, two days after a Florida court ruled the health care law was unconstitutional and hours before the Senate was scheduled to vote on a Republican amendment repealing the landmark reforms. Durbin, one of the law’s biggest proponents, argued that the law was constitutional and that legal challenges to the legislation are driven by partisan opposition to its reforms.


“For those keeping score,twelve federal courts have dismissed challenges to the health care law, two have found the law to be constitutional and two have found the opposite,” Durbin said. “Many of America’s landmark governing achievements – Social Security, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal minimum wage – were challenged in lower courts before they were ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. I believe the same will happen with the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Americans are counting on it”


Today’s hearing, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, focused on the constitutional arguments surrounding Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which enumerates the powers delegated to Congress. Durbin and other Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee argued that Congress was well within its rights to pass the Affordable Care Act because of its clear constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce and numerous Supreme Court precedents.


“Many who argue the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional are the same people who condemn judicial activism. They are pushing the Supreme Court to strike down this law because they could not defeat it in Congress and they are losing the argument in the court of public opinion – where 4 out of 5 Americans oppose repeal,” Durbin concluded.


The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March of last year, making it the largest reform of our nation’s health care system in forty-five years. Among other things, the Affordable Care Act:


  • Allows young adults - up to age 26 – to remain on their parents’ health plans;
  • Removes lifetime limits on how much insurance companies will spend on health care for individuals and families;
  • Prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on preexisting conditions; and
  • Closes the “donut hole” lowering prices on prescription drugs for millions of seniors around the nation.


Testifying at today’s hearing were: Oregon Attorney General John Kroger; Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett; Michael Carvin, a partner at Jones Day; Duke University law professor and former Clinton Solicitor General Walter Dellinger; and Harvard Law School professor and former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried.


Two weeks ago, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill repealing the law. A similar effort will be brought to a vote in the Senate today and is expected to fail.


A webcast of today’s hearing and copies of witness testimony can be found at the Judiciary Committee website.