Cooper predicts court will uphold Obama's health care mandate

Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 8:34pm

Despite sharp questioning from the conservative wing of the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the mandate provision in President Barack Obama’s health care law, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper predicts the court will uphold the controversial measure.

“I do not think the court will overturn the mandate,” Nashville’s Democratic congressman told reporters at a roundtable discussion Thursday. “They’re not prepared to substitute their judgment for Congress’s at such a dramatic scale.”

The fate of Obama’s signature legislative feat, however, seems in jeopardy after four conservative justices, and the one so-called swing justice, launched harsh words at the health care law’s mandate provision during opening arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in March. The National Federation of Independent Business, 26 states and individual citizens have challenged the health care law’s constitutionality.

Before the nation’s Affordable Care Act went before the court two weeks ago, many constitutional experts forecasted the law would be upheld by a 6-3 or even an 8-1 decision. But shortly after opening arguments commenced, it became clear the law’s individual mandate –– requiring every American purchase health insurance or pay a penalty –– is at risk.

“You are changing the relationship of the individual to the government,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote could swing a potential 5-4 decision one way or the other, either striking the law down or holding it up.

The mandate is widely seen as the linchpin to the entire 2,700-page law. The court’s decision on its constitutionality could come as early as June.

Cooper, who voted for Obama’s health care law in 2010, called the court’s oral arguments “feisty” and “fun to listen to” but not an indication of how justices plan to vote. He said he hopes the ruling is not a 5-4 decision, adding that they “don’t have much legitimacy.”

Cooper said Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. gave an “unusually weak presentation” during opening arguments, adding that he believes the justices will “compensate” for that.

Though he acknowledged the new health care law isn’t perfect, Cooper said health care clearly qualifies as interstate commerce under the constitution’s commerce clause, and thus Congress has the power to regulate it.

“For folks who know the law, they would not just be repealing this law but probably 80 years of legislation,” Cooper said. “They would essentially be undoing the New Deal and The Great Society if they really take apart the mandate. And remember: The mandate was originally a Republican idea brought forth by the Heritage Foundation. There’s a mandate in ‘Romneycare.’

“This really isn’t as partisan an issue as people think,” Cooper said. “A mandate just means individual responsibility. It’s like car insurance. You’re going to be on the road. People should have car insurance because you can’t tell if you’re going to have a wreck. If you’re going to live in this country, you need health insurance because you can’t ever tell if you’re going to have a heart attack or cancer, or something else happen to you.”

Constitutionally, Cooper said “even this Supreme Court” would uphold Medicare and thus also uphold a single-payer federal health care system. He said individual states have the authority to impose health insurance mandates, similar to car insurance mandates.

“That’s not a problem, but the federal government is weaker than the states because the states have a power to impose a mandate and we don’t?” Cooper said. “Well, aren’t we the United States of America? The first word there is ‘United.’ ”

27 Comments on this post:

By: sharko20 on 4/12/12 at 7:56

I wish my congressman was not a socialist and believed in the U.S. constitution.

By: yogiman on 4/12/12 at 8:31

Congress has fallen over the bluff into the land of communism, and Barry Soetoro (a.k.a. Barack Obama) is our new dictator.

By: willtw on 4/12/12 at 8:33

Jim Cooper???????????????? A blue dog or a stray dog?

By: MusicCity615 on 4/12/12 at 9:11

why is he still in office?

By: breathofdeath on 4/12/12 at 11:02

He's still in office because Nashville would elect Jack the Ripper if he ran as a Democrat.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/13/12 at 2:41

I am not a fan of Jim Cooper but his ability to see the future is very sound.

By: bruingeek on 4/13/12 at 5:47

There has been so much 'noise' and name-calling surrounding the Affordable Care Act that it is nice to read something that sounds like informed conversation. I know of few who are crazy about interjecting the federal government into the health care system, but it would sure be nice to see more of the nitty-gritty details so that the dialectic is grounded on fact rather than speculation or political posturing.

By: shinestx on 4/13/12 at 5:58

They don't call him Jim "Stupor" for nothing!

By: treehugger7 on 4/13/12 at 6:28

I am grateful for one reasonable person speaking truth. I hope he is correct. He and Steve Cohen are the the only TN reps with a brain. The affordable care act will become law, thanks to the few brave democrats! Thank you Jim and Steve!

By: rldavenport@com... on 4/13/12 at 6:52

Sorry, Mr. Cooper, but health insurance is not the same as auto insurance. The difference is that health insurance has a lot more conditions and restrictions placed on coverage than auto insurance does, and that would be even more true with "Obamacare", and it is undeniable.

By: MusicCity615 on 4/13/12 at 7:29


please name countries where government healthcare is considered a success. I do not think our current system is perfect, but when you look at the medicare/medicaid, they are billions overbudget, and you want to expand government coverage?

By: pswindle on 4/13/12 at 8:25

The truth is that we need this new concept in healthcare. If this had come from Bush the GOP would be all over themselves saying how wonderful it is. It would be better for us that have health insurance that we do not have to bear the burden of paying for those that choose not to participate. How many would lose their coverage if they have a pre-existing conditions? How many would lose their coverage if they are out of school and under the age of 26? Let not cut our nose off to spite our face. The ones that do not want this coverage really do not understand the benefits. Jim Cooper is a brillant man and he understands the need for this service. I'm so sick of the GOP calling every democrat such horrible names, this shows how lacking their life must be. I heard a young woman say on TV that she is against Obamacare and that she did not want to buy haealth insurance. She was asked what would happen if you had an accident or something and needed health care. She said, "they would have to treat me becasue they took the oath to do so.".

By: Jughead on 4/13/12 at 8:27

Cooper giggles at the thought of socialism. He's disguised his true colors for years, and Nashville libtards have been successful in sending this creep back year after year.

Just like Karl Dean and Mike Jamieson--flaming liberals who want to spend other people's money. Damn the ship.

By: Jughead on 4/13/12 at 8:30

Obamacare will be the end to the US economy. This type of "free" healthcare has destroyed half of Europe--and they are wising up and cutting all the entitlements.

I ain't gonna pay for every baby mama and white trash loser to keep stocked in Oxycontin. Obama says we must--so we MUST get rid of Obama or we are doomed. Romney may not be great, but the alternative means death to freedom.

By: Jughead on 4/13/12 at 8:32

A vote for Obama means a vote for higher unemployment and taxes. The US has the highest corporate tax in the world, and the libtards wonder why business locates overseas.

By: MusicCity615 on 4/13/12 at 8:54


You want to force people to buy health insurance becuase you think it's best for them. How is this constitutional? How is this any different from someone forcing someone to believe a certain religion because they think it's best for them? To force people to eat heatlhier food? to force people to put their money into a certain retirement plan????

Do people not see the slippery slope??

I am going to force you to not vote for Obama because I think it will provide many benefits for you that you don't see right now. Is that ok with you?

By: conservarage on 4/13/12 at 11:14


just because dems repeat that over and over does NOT make it true.

By: pswindle on 4/13/12 at 12:33

OK, let's pass a bill that states, if you do not have healhcare insurance, you cannot be treated unless you pay up front in cash.That would lower your insurance premiums along with mine becasue we would not have to pay for thier treatments.. But, seniors would have their medicare. That's a good safety net for them. But with Obamacare, all would have to have some kind of insurance that is based on their income, and our children would have coverage until they could become independent. What would you do about some that have a condition that the insurance company does not want to cover?

By: seeworthy on 4/13/12 at 1:58

MusicCity615 - you said "please name countries where government healthcare is considered a success."

You got me curious. Here's a world map on Wikipedia showing, at a glance, the countries with some type of universal ("government") healthcare (more than I realized):

As far as success, the World Health Organization did a study ranking healthcare in all 191 of its member states/countries. The results are shown below (1st number = quality of care, 2nd number = cost). As you can see, the U.S. came in 37th in quality, but 1st in cost:

1 France 4
2 Italy 11
3 San Marino 21
4 Andorra 23
5 Malta 37
6 Singapore 38
7 Spain 24
8 Oman 62
9 Austria 6
10 Japan 13
11 Norway 16
12 Portugal 28
13 Monaco 12
14 Greece 30
15 Iceland 14
16 Luxembourg 5
17 Netherlands 9
18 United Kingdom 26
19 Ireland 25
20 Switzerland 2
21 Belgium 15
22 Colombia 49
23 Sweden 7
24 Cyprus 39
25 Germany 3
26 Saudi Arabia 63
27 United Arab Emirates 35
28 Israel 19
29 Morocco 99
30 Canada 10
31 Finland 18
32 Australia 17
33 Chile 44
34 Denmark 8
35 Dominica 70
36 Costa Rica 50
37 United States 1

The Commonwealth Fund, in its annual survey, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall", compares the performance of the health systems in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the U.S. Its 2007 study found that, although the U.S. system is the most expensive, it consistently underperforms compared to the other countries. A major difference between the U.S. and the other countries in the study is that the U.S. is the only country without universal health care.

So, it seems to me that both Romneycare and Obamacare were on the right track! And that a majority of folks actually realize this, regardless of certain politicans' ranting and raving. Thanks, Jim Cooper, for your level-headed, thoughtful explanations. We need more folks in Congress like you!

By: jonw on 4/13/12 at 8:18

Surprise ! Surprise !
Yellow Dog Cooper talks the party line.

By: Beardone on 4/14/12 at 5:58

Jim Cooper correctly points out the concept of an individual mandate was a republican concept before it became labeled by the current version of republicanism as socialistic.
There are many things the republican party stood for in the past that are now it because a Democrat occupies the White House or because the GOP has been hijacked by the tea party wing nuts? I borrowed the following history lesson from Bloomberg News, hardly a socialist rag.....The Republican Party was born in 1854 in opposition to slavery in the territories, but from the start it supported what Federalists and Whigs (the party’s predecessors) throughout the 19th century called “internal improvements.” Today, Democrats call these programs “investments in the future” and Republicans call them “wasteful spending.”

The 1856 Republican platform demanded that “the Federal Government render immediate and efficient aid in [the] construction” of a transcontinental railroad. Money was also pledged for “the improvement of rivers and harbors.”

Soon thereafter, Abraham Lincoln signed laws creating hundreds of new colleges (the Morrill Land Grant Act), helping Americans buy property (the Homestead Act), establishing a new Cabinet department (Agriculture) and protecting public land from development (Yosemite).

Today’s Republican Party is on the other side of each of those Lincoln-era achievements, voting to slash money for education (Pell grants, which are discretionary, would be eviscerated in the Ryan budget), withdraw federal loans to buy property (closing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), shut Cabinet departments (Romney has said he’d shutter a few, though not which ones) and open up more coastlines for drilling.

The idea of using government money to invest in the future hardly died with Lincoln. Theodore Roosevelt built the Panama Canal; Dwight Eisenhower constructed the interstate highway system; and Republicans have voted for smaller such investments repeatedly over the years.

Even in 1964, when Republicans nominated conservative Barry Goldwater for president, the party platform made it clear that the tax cuts it promised would only materialize “as fiscal discipline is restored.”

Richard Nixon supervised the regulatory apparatus now scorned by conservatives and Reagan agreed to raise taxes several times.

We are fortunate to have an intelligent and courageous representative in Washington....
Jim Cooper

By: yogiman on 4/15/12 at 6:18

Why will the Supreme Court so willingly approve a mandatory bill issued by a usurper in office? Are they that ignorant of his illegality?

Will it be allowed to remain intact when he's officially exposed?

By: thereitis on 4/16/12 at 5:37

The rankings with other countries are suspect. As an example, the US counts and reports child mortality differently, which significantly changes some numbers. If a child at birth passes the US counts it. Other countries do not.

I think the more relavant information is what other countries are doing with their health care policy. The latest to begin adopting free market health care reforms and budget reductions is Sweden. England/UK started this last year. As soon as the Eurobond dies you will see most of Europe begin heading this direction.

The latest reports show "Obamacare" running a $1.5 trillion (and growing) debt over the upcoming decade. Europe has slow burn riots over the fact they cannot pay for their lavish socialism. America will certainly learn the same lesson. The question is, how long will it take the American Progressive to learn this lesson?

And by the way, the Commerce Clause is almost unrecognizable from its original intent. It was designed to ensure that states could not erect trade restrictive barriers between themselves. Ironic, the US Justice Dept uses the Commerce Clause as part of their defense of Obamacare, when laws have been erected to ensure health care cannot be purchased over state lines. A true enforcement would create one national marketplace for insurance, instead...

With auto insurance, a mandate relative to ownership. In Constitutional law lingo it is called a "limiting factor." Essentially, where would the authority end. If you own a car, you buy it; if you don't, you don't. That is the limiting factor. It doesn't apply to homes, bikes, computers, ginso knives, etc. A line of questioning during the Obamacare hearings was that of 'the limiting factor.' Forcing people to eat broccoli could be allowed under the legal framework of Obamacare, which essentially had no discernable 'limiting factor.' Congress becomes a dictatorship of the majority.

By: wasaw on 4/16/12 at 7:03

Congressman, if your prediction is wrong, would you do us all a favor and resign? Folks in Hermitage were all excited and were hoping the state legislature would redraw the 5th Congressional district boundaries; but unfortunately for us, they didn't. All of us out here would like to get some real representation. When are you going to retire? Surely there's someone in the district who can represent the entire electorate.

By: tdterry1999 on 4/16/12 at 8:49

What would happen if this is left to stand.More government control.What if the republicans gain control and pass a law that everyone must buy a gun.This is not the road we want to go down.

By: teacheradvocate on 4/16/12 at 9:30

Cooper is an Obama/Democrat stooge who has never had an original thought. He marches to the beat of the socialist agenda and wins reelection only because of the handouts received by a majority of his constituents, including Obamacare. Of course he would say that he thinks the Supreme Court will uphold the unConstitutional mandate, because that's what he wants. Due to redistricting I'll now have an opportunity to vote against him, and so will many, many former Blackburn consitituents.

By: pswindle on 4/16/12 at 12:54

Yea, lets's keep Blackburn the airhead in Congress. Jim Cooper is one of the smartest, and well-read Congressman that we have.. But to keep up with the mentality of TN, we need to go for another half-baked Blackburn. She is about as silly and out of touch of anyone that I know. I heard her speak at an event, and I was totally ashamed for her and the listeners.