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Tue Mar 20, 2012, 06:58 AM

At Heart of Health Law Clash, a 1942 Case of a Farmerís Wheat

WASHINGTON ó If the Obama administration persuades the Supreme Court to uphold its health care overhaul law, it will be in large part thanks to a 70-year-old precedent involving an Ohio farmer named Roscoe C. Filburn.

Mr. Filburn sued to overturn a 1938 federal law that told him how much wheat he could grow on his family farm and made him pay a penalty for every extra bushel.

The 1942 decision against him, Wickard v. Filburn, is the basis for the Supreme Courtís modern understanding of the scope of federal power. It is the contested ground on which the health care case has been fought in the lower courts and in the partiesí briefs. And it is likely to be crucial to the votes of Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, who are widely seen as open to persuasion by either side.

The administration is probably assured of the votes of the courtís four more liberal members, and it needs one more to win the case. How Justices Kennedy and Scalia think about wheat, marijuana, health insurance and Roscoe Filburn may make all the difference.


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Reply At Heart of Health Law Clash, a 1942 Case of a Farmerís Wheat (Original post)
liberal N proud Mar 2012 OP
zipplewrath Mar 2012 #1

Response to liberal N proud (Original post)

Tue Mar 20, 2012, 08:19 AM

1. This could be huge

apart from the effect on Obama's health insurance regulation law, if the justices use this case to over turn "Wheat", it will make Citizens United look tiny. The commerce clause and the federal governments power to regulate commerce is the underlying basis for much of modern federal authority, from the FCC to the EPA and FDA among others. Heck much of the civil rights legislation is based upon it.

They could go narrow. Many, really on both sides of the aisle, have thought Wheat went too far. That it should have stayed limited to ACTUAL interstate commerce. There are good arguments on both sides. But even this would be huge. I do wonder if the court has the moxy to actually do this. God knows Scalia and Thomas do, I just wonder if any of the rest of them would.

The biggest reason I would think that they wouldn't do this is because the large corporations, especially the multinationals, actually LIKE the feds having all the authority. They DON'T want to have to deal with 50 states worth of regulations.

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