As readers of our Twitter feed know, the debate during today’s consideration of H.R. 5, the “HEALTH Act,” by the House Judiciary Committee turned towards protecting states’ rights by limiting the scope of the bill. Rep. Hank Johnson, Democrat from Georgia, introduced an amendment to limit the scope of the bill to just health care suits filed in federal courts, thus protecting the state courts from being overridden through pre-emption. Two Texas Republicans, Ted Poe and Louis Gohmert, expressed support for the general idea of protecting states’ rights. At that point, Rep. Johnson offered to withdraw his amendment if the committee would consider a states’ rights amendment later in the legislative process, to which committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith agreed. Chairman Smith later adjourned the committee with a commitment to revisit the issue before resuming committee consideration next week. (UPDATE: Here’s a story from “The Hill” on the states’ rights debate.)
EDIT, 2-10-11: Rep. Johnson also introduced the idea that H.R. 5 would violate the right to a civil jury trial, as protected by the 7th Amendment. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) disagreed strenuously, asserting that the Supreme Court has already ratified the theory behind H.R. 5. Although he wasn’t explicit, he must have been referring to the use of the Commerce Clause to pre-empt state law and court suits, and thus enable Congress to enact federal limits on all health care lawsuits, whether filed in state or federal courts. I hope that next week, some Judiciary Committee member reads the Founding Fathers’ unambiguous quotes on the unalienable, God-given right to a civil jury trial and begins to question the nature and reach of the Commerce Clause. I have already addressed the potentially unlimited scope of the Commerce Clause and will do so again soon.
Readers and fans need to contact House Judiciary Committee Members right away and their own Congressmen to urge them to protect states’ rights and state courts, and the right to a civil jury trial, by amending H.R. 5. You can access the list of Judiciary Committee Republicans on the committee website and then navigate to individual websites for contact information. You can also call the U.S. House switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for a particular Congressman’s personal office, and leave a message. Congressmen pay the most attention to comments from those living in their districts. All 7th and 10th Amendment advocates need to hurry, before opponents of any states’ rights’ amendments mobilize to persuade committee Members to abandon Constitutional principles.