Constitutional scholar advises Idaho lawmakers against state-based health exchange
A number of members of the Idaho Legislature gathered in Boise Thursday morning, but the meeting was not at the Capitol.
“My name is Rob Natelson,” the guest speaker said in introducing himself to the legislators gathered at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel. “I’m here to talk about standing up to the feds.”
Natelson is regarded as one of America’s leading constitutional scholars. A former tenured law professor and the top publisher at the University of Montana School of Law, Natelson has taught, among other subjects, constitutional law, constitutional history, advanced constitutional law, and First Amendment.
Natelson told IdahoReporter.com after the event that the current debate going on in Idaho over compliance with Obamacare and the creation of a state-based insurance exchange is a “strategic debate, as much as it is a philosophical matter.”
When asked about Gov. Butch Otter’s claim that complying with the federal mandate of creating a state-based exchange is a means of resisting further health insurance mandates within the state, he said that “the problem with that strategy is, one way or another, you create an intrastate constituency for Obamacare. It’s risky, and it’s foolish politics if you ask me. If I was advising him, I’d recommend against doing that.”
Currently serving as a senior fellow at the nonprofit Independence Institute, Natelson told lawmakers, “From the standpoint of the founders of our country, and the underlying premises of the Constitution, the checks and balances between the states and the federal government were key to the preservation of liberty, ” adding, “This balance between the states and the federal government was probably more important to them than the checks and balances among the three branches of our federal government.”
Describing the current state of the country as a “crisis,” Natelson said that under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, individual states can band together and call for a convention for proposed amendments. “It’s not a ‘constitutional convention,’ this is something different. For example, currently 15 states now have valid applications for an Article 5 convention limited to considering a balanced budget amendment.”
“What are appropriate approaches for the states to resist the mandates of Washington?” asked Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby.
Noting that James Madison suggested the states should resist encroachment both from the British and from the U.S. federal government, Natelson told Wood “your Idaho Health Care Freedom Act is a great example of how states should resist, and you might consider expanding that.”
Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, asked for Natelson’s thoughts on cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that object to Obamacare mandates based upon religious liberty arguments.
“While we can’t predict court outcomes,” Natelson responded, “we must all realize that Supreme Court rulings have determined that the government can impose limits on religious groups, and I’d guess that those religious groups bringing arguments before the Supreme Court today have a rough road ahead. Some liberal religious groups love the mandates of Obamacare, yet they don’t like other government mandates. Religious groups in America need to realize that we are all in this together. When one group’s liberties are impeded, all of our liberties are impeded.”
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The foundation sponsored Natelson’s visit to Boise.