Washington Week Ahead: - Farm programs weigh on Supreme Court's health care decision

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 25 - Starting on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear three days of arguments on whether or not President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which the GOP has dubbed “Obamacare,” is constitutional. The law requires almost every American to have health insurance and, going into the November elections, the Court's decision carries huge political implications for those both opposed to and supportive of a mandate to purchase health insurance.

 

If the sweeping health care overhaul is upheld after a wave of constitutional challenges, it may, in part, be because of a 1942 decision of the Supreme Court of the U.S. that Congress had the power to compel a grower to comply with acreage controls in the farm programs of that day.

 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati last year ruled that the law's requirement to buy health insurance was similar to that which forced Ohio farmer Roscoe Filburn to hold his wheat planting to 11.1 acres even though he planned to feed it all on his farm.

 

In that decision, the Majority wrote that Congress may also regulate even non-economic intrastate activity if doing so is essential to a larger scheme that regulates economic activity. It cited specifically the Wickard v. Filburn decision that upheld USDA rules under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 limiting the amount of wheat that farmers could grow, even for on-farm use. The case is named for the late Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard.

HungerU: the Worlds Food Crisis Demands Your Attention

 

“Even though producing and consuming home-grown wheat is non-economic intrastate activity, Congress rationally concluded that the failure to regulate this class of activities

would undercut its broader regulation of the interstate wheat market,” the appeals court held.

 

This is because individuals would be fulfilling their own demand for wheat rather than resorting to the market, which would thwart Congress‘s efforts to stabilize prices. Congress decided many years later to abandon acreage control authority in farm programs, for subsequent policy reasons, but that has not undermined the appellate court rationale in the health care case.

 

“If, as Wickard shows, Congress could regulate the most self-sufficient of individuals-the American farmer-when he grew wheat destined for no location other than his family farm, the same is true for those who inevitably will seek health care and who must have a way to pay for it,” the opinion said.

 

And is it any more offensive to individual autonomy to prevent a farmer from being self sufficient when it comes to supplying feed to his animals than an individual when it comes to paying for health care?

 

The ruling held that the Supreme Court ―can decide that the legend of Wickard has outstripped the facts of Wickard-that a farmer‘s production only of more than 200 bushels of wheat a year substantially affected interstate commerce.

 

Lawmakers will also have a busy week. Both the House and Senate return before taking a two-week break to celebrate Good Friday, Passover, and Easter.

 

The House will consider five bills, but the the biggest item for the week is House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget resolution. Members are expected to start debating the measure on Wednesday and could, potentially pass it on Thursday.

 

The House is also expected to consider a bill to authorize federal highway spending, a measure which is due to expire at the end of March, by another three months.

 

In the Senate, lawmakers will hold a vote on Monday afternoon on whether to proceed to a bill that would repeal milllions of dolars in tax breaks for oil companies.

 

Monday, March 26, 2012

 

10:00 a.m., Supreme Court arguments, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida

 

12:00 p.m., The U.S. House of Representatives will meet for Morning Hour debate and 2:00 for legislative business with votes postposed until 6:30 p.m.

Suspensions (5 Bills)

  1. H.R. 2779 - To exempt inter-affiliate swaps from certain regulatory requirements put in place by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as amended (Rep. Stivers - Financial Services/Agriculture)
  2. H.R. 2682 - Business Risk Mitigation and Price Stabilization Act of 2011, as amended (Rep. Grimm - Financial Services/Agriculture)
  3. H.R. 4014 - To amend the Federal Deposit Insurance Act with respect to information provided to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Rep. Huizenga - Financial Services)
  4. H.R. 3298 - Homes For Heroes Act of 2011 (Rep. Al Green - Financial Services)
  5. H.R. 4239 - Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (Rep. Mica - Transportation and Infrastructure/Ways and Means/Natural Resources/Science, Space, and Technology/Energy and Commerce)

2:15 p.m., Fourth annual White House Kitchen Garden spring planting

 

5:00 p.m., Markup: H.R. 2309 - Postal Reform Act of 2011 Committee on Rules: Full Committee

 

Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012

10:00 a.m., Supreme Court arguments, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida

10:00 a.m., Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, Hearings to examine the economic imperative for promoting international travel to the United States. Senate Dirksen 226.

2:45 p.m., Senate Committee on Finance: Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure, Hearings to examine renewable energy tax incentives, focusing on how have the recent and pending expirations of key incentives affected the renewable energy industry in the United States. Senate Dirksen 215.  

10:00 a.m., House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy, Hearing: Can a USPS-run Health Plan Solve its Financial Crisis?

10:00 a.m., House Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry-Public Hearing

RE: U.S. Forest Service Land Management: Challenges and Opportunities for Achieving Healthier National Forests

 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Supreme Court arguments, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services

10:00 a.m., House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Hearing: A Review of the President's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for the Environmental Protection Agency, 2167 Rayburn HOB

10:30 a.m., House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Hearing: To review H.R. 3283, H.R. 1838 in 1300 Longworth HOB

2:00 p.m., House Committee on Financial Services, Oversight and Investigations, Hearing: Hearing entitled “The Collapse of MF Global: Part 3” 2128 Rayburn HOB

2:30 p.m., House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Hearing: The Price of Public Diplomacy with China, 2172 Rayburn HOB

3:30 p.m., Briefing to Discuss Farmers and Low-Income Consumers Working Together, 1300 Longworth House Office Building

Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012

9:30 a.m., Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Hearings to examine current and near-term future price expectations and trends for motor gasoline and other refined petroleum fuels. Senate Dirksen 366.        

USDA Reports: US Export Sales, Agricultural Prices

Friday, March 30, 2012

10:00 a.m., House Committee on Agriculture Field Hearing: Farm Bill in Riceland Hall, Fowler Center Arkansas State University 201 Olympic Drive State University, AR 72467

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