President Obama announced today that he was going to take a new step in the expansion of executive authority by recess appointing a head to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau despite the fact that the Senate isn't actually in recess. This has, of course, spawned an angry backlash. However, the man that the President is appointing is relatively unknown.
His name is Richard Cordray and he has some interesting views on the limits of congressional power. Before losing his bid for reelection as Ohio's Attorney General Cordray appeared on a program called Capitol Square. He was asked about his decision not to join Attorney Generals, including one democrat, in filing suit against Obamacare. The full interview can be seen here but his answer to this question is most interesting:
Cordray essentially says that lawsuits against Obamacare are "frivolous" because courts have held, and Cordray seems to agree that, any legislation which has even "incidental effects on the economy" is a "valid exercise of congressional authority" because of the commerce clause. Now the surprising aspect of what Cordray says certainly isn't that courts have held that the commerce clause basically negates the rest of the constitution. Some courts certainly have and very famously so.
The surprising aspect of what Cordray says isn't even that someone would have to implicitly hold this extremely far left view of the commerce clause to justify the individual mandate.
No, the surprising aspect is that he said this at all. Most liberal politicians have better sense then to explicitly spell out the radical beliefs that make up the foundation of their political philosophy. Off the wall interpretations of the Constitution are generally disliked by average Americans when explained to them so bluntly.
Honestly, how many people in this country would agree that the Constitution views any legislation that has any effect on the economy, no matter how slight or round about, as a valid exercise of congressional authority? After all, what legislation wouldn't fall under that standard? What human action, or in Obamacare's case, inaction wouldn't be under congress's authority to impose its will upon?
Apparently, unlike most of us, when Richard Cordray gets to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution and reads "[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes" he takes that to mean any law that leads to even "incidental effects on the economy" is a "valid exercise of congressional authority".