Scott Brown Stands Up for His State
By Congressman Joe Pitts
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." – 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution
This week the talk of Washington and much of country was about Scott Brown's win in the special election to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy. With determination and a message that appealed to independent voters in Massachusetts, Brown shocked the country to become the first Republican Senator from the state in almost four decades.
There is almost no end to the speculation about why Brown was able to come from behind and win the seat. A critical difference between Brown and his opponent, however, was his stand against the current healthcare reform effort.
Brown repeatedly spoke out against the bills currently being considered in Washington, but yet he voted for and continues to support the 2006 Massachusetts healthcare law. Many Congressional Democrats point to Massachusetts as a model for national healthcare reform. But why would Brown oppose a national bill actually based on a state law he supports?
In part, because other states have not taken the same measures as Massachusetts and also because of the backroom deals cut in order to gain the support of critical Senators. Brown doesn’t believe that his state should be subject to billions in new taxes when it is still working to fix its own system.
The people of Massachusetts this week elected a Senator who would honestly represent their concerns in Washington, not the agenda of a political party. I think that the people of Massachusetts are rediscovering the wisdom of federalism.
Individual states have different characteristics and concerns so naturally political solutions will vary from state to state. The Founders, in their wisdom, created a political system that would limit the reach of the national government. They wanted to preserve freedom, and they knew that a powerful national government could easily lead to a tyranny of the majority.
Now Congress is considering a massive healthcare reform bill. Both the House and Senate bills are more than 2,000 pages long. The total costs for these bills rise to more than a trillion dollars each. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare spending in these bills. Every person in the country would be greatly affected by a single piece of legislation.
This has a great number of Americans concerned about the direction of our country. The House healthcare bill passed with only a couple votes to spare. The Senate bill barely passed, with every Republican standing in opposition. Most polls show the country split down the middle about whether they support the Administration's plan for reform.
With so much on the line, Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are upset. The healthcare fight in Washington has all the appearances of a "winner takes all" battle. The townhalls this summer showed how concerned people were with both the content of the bills and how they were moving through Congress.
Now, in state capitols across the country, state legislators are preparing legislation that would exempt their constituents from the burdensome new mandates that could be created by these bills. They are standing on the 10th amendment, insisting that the federal government does not have the right to impose a national mandate to purchase government approved health insurance. Next week in Harrisburg state senators and representatives will stand on the steps of the capitol to formally introduce their bills to uphold freedom in our state.
This week I joined my colleagues in supporting a resolution reaffirming the commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives to the 10th amendment and the Constitution's insistence that Washington has a limited role to play in governing our nation.
Respect for the Constitution doesn't mean that Congress has no role in reforming our healthcare system. I believe there is broad agreement on a number of issues but since Republicans and many Democrats were locked out of the negotiations, we did not get bills that could get the kind of bipartisan backing that would reassure the American public.
I believe healthcare reform based on the principles of the Constitution will mean that individual states come to different conclusions. We can have national agreement on many issues, but the people of Massachusetts and the people of Pennsylvania should have the right to be different.
Congressman Joe Pitts is a Republican who represents Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District in parts of Berks, Chester and Lancaster counties.