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For a century, legal scholars wondered if a federal spending program could ever violate the 10th Amendment by coercing the states to go along, since the states are sovereign and equal in stature to the federal government. The final issue the Supreme Court will decide is whether Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid—and sticking the states with part of the price tag—is the first program to cross this constitutional limit.
As Paul Clement—the lawyer representing 26 states in the Obamacare case—summarized to the Court: “The expansion of Medicaid since 1984 is really breathtaking.” It went from $21 billion then to $250 billion now, and Obamacare takes it to $330 billion per year.
Clement went on to explain that if a state declines to go along with the expansion, Congress decided to empower the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to strip every dollar of Medicaid from the state—not just the expanded funding but the entire system currently covering poor people in that state. ..
Would YOU trust Kathleen Sebelius to "do the right thing"
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued for the Obama administration that the justices shouldn’t be concerned that the government would cut off Medicaid funding because it’s never happened. Roberts rejected that, going back to Scalia’s analogy and saying, “the gun to your head, ‘your money or your life,’ you say, well, there’s no evidence that anyone has ever been shot… Well, it’s because you have to give up your wallet. You don’t have a choice.”
That’s the coercion here. Every voter in that state would still be paying into Medicaid through their payroll taxes every paycheck, but now they would be paying for the other 49 states. Try finding a governor or state legislator who wants to explain to their voters how they let that situation occur.
Roberts added, the “secretary has total and complete say” to revoke all funds under this law, and that, “so long as federal government has that power it seems to be a significant intrusion on the sovereign interests of the state.”
The chief pointed to a recent letter by HHS to Arizona, informing them that a proposed change to their state Medicaid program could result in Secretary Kathleen Sebelius choosing to cancel all of Arizona’s federal Medicaid dollars. He concluded, “Of course no state is going to say … make my day, take it away. They’re [instead] going to give in.”
The Tenth Amendment (Amendment X) to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution's principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the States by the Constitution are reserved to the States or the people. ..
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan defended the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare today by arguing that "It's just a boatload of federal money for you to take and spend" and concluding "It doesn't sound coercive to me."
Kagan made her comments at today's Supreme Court hearing while questioning attorney Paul D. Clement who was presenting an oral argument on behalf of 26 states seeking to have the federal health care law declared unconstitutional:
Mr. Clement: "Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court. The constitutionality of the act’s massive expansion of Medicaid depends on the answer to two related questions. First, is the expansion coercive? And second, does that coercion matter?"