On November 14, 2011, the Supreme Court agreed to review the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care act. The central question is, What limits does the Constitution — specifically, the Commerce Clause — impose upon the federal government’s exercise of power? This health-care act is the defining legislation of the president’s term, and the issue of limited government is at the very heart of the debate between Obama and his opponents. The political, economic, and constitutional stakes are very high. These arguments before the Court will provide a dramatic — and perhaps even decisive — backdrop for the 2012 election.
Constitutional crises of this magnitude are not without precedent. Indeed, the seeds of this case can be found in the court battles of the 1930s and 1940s, as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation challenged traditional constitutional bounds. Supported by record congressional majorities, FDR and his fellow Democrats passed a blizzard of programs designed to alleviate the economic hardship of the Great Depression — and to alter the very fabric of the U.S. capitalistic system.