WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) outlined a second part of his strategy in repealing health care reform in a speech to the Federalist Society on Thursday, saying that in addition to the work by Congress, he is counting on the conservative group's powerful, wide-reaching legal network to help declare it unconstitutional.
"It really is true that this is one of my favorite organizations in the whole country," said McConnell, immediately scoring brownie points with the attendees at the organization's annual conference who laughed and applauded. "I really don't say that to every group I speak at," he added, pointing out that he has been heavily involved in the past as well.
"We're serious about repeal and replacing the health care bill," said McConnell during his morning keynote speech at the Mayflower Hotel. "We will make the case for repeal through vigorous oversight and vote on full repeal of this terrible bill, even as we vote to eliminate its worst parts. And we'll continue to fight it in the courts."
McConnell recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the multi-state suit challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law, arguing that the mandate for all individuals to purchase insurance "dramatically oversteps the bounds of the Commerce [Clause] which has always been understood as a power to regulate, and not to compel, economic activity."
On Tuesday, McConnell warned that if courts declare the law constitutional, "Congress' specific power under that clause will be transformed into a general police power, all but eliminating the constitutional distinction between federal and state regulatory activity."
"By preventing the accumulation of excessive power, the Constitution is designed to reduce the risk of tyranny or abuse from the state or federal government," he continued. "The health care bill would remove an important bulwark... So fighting this mandate couldn't be more important, and I know I can count [on] the support of the Federalist Society in helping us in our challenges to this affront."
The Federalist Society is a powerful network of influential conservative legal scholars, boasting the involvement of Supreme Court justices, senators, presidents, attorneys general, professors and judges at all levels. Since its founding in 1982, it has successfully shifted conservative legal ideas into the mainstream and helped young conservative superstars rise up in the system.
According to its critics, such as Caroline Fredrickson, executive director of the progressive American Constitution Society, it has also helped "pack our courts with right-wing zealots and changing constitutional interpretation to restrict the rights that most Americans consider so vital."
So not only is it likely that McConnell will be able to count on conservative legal experts to help Republicans make the case for why health care reform is unconstitutional, but he will be sure to find sympathetic judges at all levels, including Supreme Court justices like John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. On Thursday night, in fact, McConnell will be attending the conference's annual dinner, which will be keynoted by Scalia, a long-time Federalist Society supporter.