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Congress: What Health Care Reform And NCLB Have In Common

Picture 29Make it to the end of this long New Yorker article about the jurisprudence of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and you’ll see an interesting discussion of star-crossed Congressional efforts to influence what goes on in schools. As you may recall, the original version of the federal "gun-free schools" law omitted certain key statements related to the Commerce Clause, which holds that federal laws be limited to those with a substantial effect on interstate commerce. The Court overturned the gun-free statute in 1995's US v Lopez decision and Thomas argued that the current standard for Congressional involvement was much too lenient and should be revisited.  It's an argument he’s made several times since then and will almost certainly make again when the Court decides on the health care reform legislation passed during the early days of the Obama administration.  As for the gun-free law, Democratic proponents including my old boss Dianne Feinstein went back and added a bunch of findings and interstate commerce language and passed another version in 1996, which still stands.  But if the Court is moving Thomas' way, as the article argues, that kind of window dressing won't be enough. "By Thomas’s reading, Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act, to say nothing of Medicare and Medicaid, might all be unconstitutional," writes Jeffrey Toobin. Challenges to federal education laws might follow (if Tea Party lawmakers don't repeal them first).

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i'm reminded that there was the GFSZA of 1990, which was made gun possession a federal crime and was struck down in Lopez, and the GFSA of 1994 (no Zone), which went through via ESEA reauthorization and required a one year suspension

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