Conyers also said that long before they opposed the law's individual responsibility provision, which requires some Americans to maintain health care insurance starting in 2014, many Republican leaders supported it. He noted that Sens. Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley included a similar provision in legislation they put forward in response to the health care reform measure advanced during the Clinton administration. The House Judiciary Committee's Ranking Member also noted that former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney supported a provision requiring citizens to carrying health care insurance. That state law, Conyers said, "helped reduce insurance premiums by 40 percent while the national average has increased 14 percent."
Conyers addressed health care reform opponents' claims that Congress has exceeded its constitutional authority by enacting the individual responsibility provision, saying that its power to regulate commerce and to use "necessary and proper" means to advance legislative priorities buttresses the constitutionality of the provision.
The representative also took on the claim that the Affordable Care Act endangers liberty.
Finally, we have been hearing that this is all about individual liberty, the right to be let alone. But is it really? For example, states can, and do, require citizens to purchase car insurance. And, in Massachusetts, legislation signed by former Governor Romney obligates the state's residents to purchase health insurance. Many other laws impose affirmative action obligations on our citizenry: we must pay taxes, send our children to schools and vaccinate them, contribute to Medicare and Social Security, to name just a few. Surely some citizens would like to avoid these requirements as well. But, aside from religious objectors, who also are excused here, they have no constitutionally recognized right to do so. The liberty interests at stake do not change simply because it is the federal, rather than the state, government that is imposing the requirement. While we can debate whether the Congress has the power to impose this requirement - something I believe we clearly do - we should not scare Americans into believing that how we resolve that questions says anything about their individual liberty.
For more discussion about the health care reform law's individual responsibility provision see the following debate between Simon Lazarus of the National Senior Citizens Law Center and George Mason University law school professor Ilya Somin. Also, on March 3, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will provide a keynote address at an ACS event featuring a debate on the law's constitutionality.