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A Car Analogy for the Severability of the Health Insurance Mandate

Assuming that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, can it be severed? I argue that it can, by analogy with a car.

So the United States of America passed a piece of reform to try to fix its broken health insurance system.  And in that reform the congress included a mandate that all citizens purchase health insurance.  And now the Supreme Court of the United States of America has heard oral arguments about whether or not that mandate is sound with regards to the powers enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Assuming that it is not sound, and must be struck, the question then becomes whether the rest of the reform effort must also be struck.

The central question is whether that mandate serves as a chassis or an engine for the car that is the reform law.

If it is the engine, while important to the car, it can be removed (possibly removing a few other components in the process simply as a matter of convenience to pull that sucker out).  The remainder can be rolled across the street to the Capitol and then Congress can decide if they want to put a new engine, disassemble it, or something else (maybe they will convert it to an electric car).

If it is the chassis, well, everything is attached in some way.  It would be overly complicated to remove everything and still return the parts to the Congress of the United States of America for reuse.

An engine clause is one which provides a necessary resource to the remainder of the law, allowing the remainder to operate.

A chassis clause is one which provides structure upon which the other provisions rest.

It seems plausible that the mandate is an engine, and that it is not a chassis.  Without the mandate, some of the other provisions may lack the economic powers to function, but a new engine could fix that.  The mandate does not provide a framework or structure that the provisions intrinsically rely upon.

So what, then, would a chassis clause look like in a law?  I’m not entirely sure, but my guess would be something like a law requiring all citizens to purchase and maintain firearms, and then requiring a variety of activities premised upon that.  You must march around your house every Sunday, firing shots in the air at a forty-five degree angle toward the four corners while singing the national anthem.

A variety of such dependencies, all relying on the premise that you own and maintain one or more firearms and ammo caches, would be strictly dependent upon that one clause.  Without that clause, the remainder would be like a jellyfish, just a bunch of dead weight.

What do you think?  Is the mandate a chassis or an engine?

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