WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning held a hearing examining the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – the historic health care reform legislation that was signed into law in March 2010.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chaired the hearing, which was announced by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) last week. The hearing comes two days after a federal district court in Florida issued the most recent in a line of court decisions on the constitutionality of the health care law. The Senate is also expected to vote on a Republican proposal to repeal the landmark bill. That vote is expected to fail. Legal challenges to the law are expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I fundamentally disagree with the court decision issued this week,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “As Connecticut’s Attorney General, I thoroughly reviewed the legal implications of the health care reform bill and believe that the law is not only constitutional, but that the provisions already in effect are providing real and important benefits to Connecticut’s people. I will also work to improve the law, which can be done consistently with its purpose and the Constitution.”
“I have no doubt that Congress acted well within the bounds of its constitutional authority in working to secure affordable health care for all Americans,” said Leahy. “The language and spirit of the Constitution provides for such action, as does judicial precedent and prior acts of Congress to protect hardworking Americans in the national health care market and promote the general welfare. I hope that the independent judiciary will not seek to cast aside this landmark legislation or Congress’ ability to act to protect the American people.”
“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.”
“The health care law that passed year isn’t perfect and we are willing to work to improve it. But we must start by recognizing that it is the law of the land and any changes should be made through the democratic process,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “To repeal it in full would not be wise because it would raise prescription drug costs on seniors, end the ban on discrimination based on preexisting conditions and add over a trillion dollars to the deficit.”
“Opponents of reform have tried everything to protect insurance companies and block commonsense protections for middle-class families,” said Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.). “But, I am confident the Affordable Care Act will be upheld if it comes before the Supreme Court, because it is firmly rooted in the Commerce clause of the Constitution, as both conservative and liberal judges have interpreted it for generations.”
The Affordable Care Act made the largest reforms to the nation’s health care system in 45 years. Two weeks ago, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the law, rolling back important provisions to eliminate discriminatory practices by health insurers, reduce drug prices for three million seniors, provide important tools to help protect taxpayers against health care fraud, and extend health care some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
The hearing was webcast live on the Judiciary Committee’s website.
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