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Legal Scholars Debate Affordable Care Act

Apart from attempting to judge its constitutionality, legal scholars are raising new questions about the Affordable Care Act as it relates to the intent of the framers of the Constitution. A symposium Thursday at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law addressed that issue and tackled well-trodden areas of debate on the issue, including whether Congress can force Americans to buy a product.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued in opposition to the health-care legislation. Fisher says the expansion of federal power is at the heart of the issue.

“And the concern there is the founders understood that the federal government was a limited government. That power, so as not to become authoritarian, needed to be divided and limited. So, in this day and age do we still have a limited federal government? And if so, where are those limits?”

Jim Fitzpatrick, a 1959 IU law school graduate and current senior partner at a Washington law firm, argues the health-care legislation is constitutional, adding original intent, while important, is only a small part of interpreting constitutionality.

“I think this idea of original intent and that you approach the Constitution the way that James Madison thought about issues is totally misguided. The constitution was written in broad terms, a statement of principles. It was not a specific ‘yes and no’. Due process of law is an evolving concept based upon where your society is at a particular time,” Fitzpatrick says.

Fitzpatrick and Fisher agree health care reform is needed, but appear mostly divided on what fixes should be made.

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