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By Harold Pease, Ph. D

For eight years Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare when they had the power.  None had voted for it.  The word replace was never used.  Senator Ted Cruz was the only presidential candidate promising to repeal it “day one.” But when Republicans got the power they broke this promise.

Candidate Donald Trump had promised to “repeal and replace” and has tried to keep both promises but Democrats refuse to support anything he does and Republicans are now divided on the topic. The Republican holdouts are rightly doing so on constitutional grounds and they and the Democrats together make it impossible for Trump to get the votes he needs to replace it.  So why not keep half his promise rather than none, repeal and move on to tax reform?  Republicans have the power to repeal now but will never have the power from those loyal to the Constitution to replace it without an amendment to the Constitution.

Senator Rand Paul is making a similar case, “Repeal now, Replace Later” and is getting the President’s ear in several private meetings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises to hold the Senate hostage by delaying the August recess to further “arm-twist” vulnerable senators but, as was the case with House Speaker Paul Ryan, has been stopped by the constitutionalists of his party, the Freedom Caucus.

The Founders knew that all governments tend to grow in power. To stop this they made a list of the areas of federal jurisdiction with the understanding that all areas not mentioned belonged to the states.  All convention delegates understood this and curiously placed every power in one sentence with 18 paragraphs (Article I, Section 8).  The strange construction was to make it even more difficult for future power grabbers to isolate and enhance a power.  Everything had to be considered in the context of the one sentence.  Probably not one in a thousand knows what you have just learned. To make this interpretation even more powerful they later added the 10th Amendment ” The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution… are reserved to the states respectively….”

Equally unknown, because the document is no longer seriously treated in today’s educational process, is the following.  The Founders gave the federal government only four areas of power: taxes, paying the debts, providing for the general welfare (that’s not the same as providing the general welfare), and providing for the common defense.  That is it my friends.  All of it!  All four powers are identified before the first semi-colon.  That following are simply qualifiers of these four.  “But all Duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the U.S.” These were different types of taxes.  There were no qualifiers on paying our debts.  The Founders rejected the normal practice of just refusing to honor the commitments of the previous government even though it would have been easy to do.

Now to the heart of why Article I, Section 8 is so long and so hated by big government advocates who would do anything to explain away what I now share and why they would rather you not read it.  Please stay with me; this is so critical to your personal liberty.  The Founders did not dare to leave the phrases “general welfare” or  “common defense” for future power grabbers.  No telling what they could do with these vague phases.  They understood that it is the nature of all government to grow.  Notice that clauses 2-9 detail what they meant by general welfare and clauses 10 to 17 what they meant by common defense.

For now let us stay with general welfare.  Listed are 14 powers, five dealing with borrowing money, regulating its value, and dealing with counterfeiting.  The other nine included naturalization, bankruptcies, establishing post offices, protecting inventors and authors, establishing “tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court” and “regulating commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.”

Who decided the division of powers—the states?  They forfeited only specific powers and only those they could not reasonably do as states as, for example a common currency.  Why would they give any more?  They had just rejected the flow of power from the Colonies to Parliament and the resultant avalanche of rules descending from them in return. After all, the cause of the American Revolution was excessive government.  Their intent was to handcuff the federal government so that such could never happen again, not give it free reign.  In fact, our first national government, The Articles of Confederation, was left so weak that it could not function properly, thus the Constitutional Convention.

My point!!  National health care is not on the list, in fact, it is a million miles from any of the 14 powers detailing general welfare.  Now you know why so many use the word unconstitutional in the same sentence with national healthcare.  If national healthcare can be prostituted from this list anything can and any pretense of a government with limited powers ends.  If the people really want the government to control healthcare and 1/6th of the economy, they must get an amendment to the Constitution ratified by the states as outlined in Article V of the Constitution.  Hopefully Trump, under the tutelage of Senator Rand Paul, is catching on.  Presently Congress has only the power to repeal that which has never been constitutional.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit