Today we resolve constitutional challenges to two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.
In our federal system, the National Government possesses only limited powers; the States and the people retain the remainder. In this case we must again determine whether the Constitution grants Congress powers it now asserts, but which many States and individuals believe it does not possess.
These affirmative prohibitions come into play, however, only where the Government possesses authority to act in the first place. If no enumerated power authorizes Congress to pass a certain law, that law may not be enacted, even if it would not violate any of the express prohibitions in the Bill of Rights or elsewhere in the Constitution.
Indeed, the Constitution did not initially include a Bill of Rights at least partly because the Framers felt the enu-meration of powers sufficed to restrain the Government. And when the Bill of Rights was ratified, it made express what the enumeration of powers necessarily implied: The Federal Government has expanded dramatically over the past two centuries, but it still must show that a constitutional grant of power authorizes each of its actions.
The same does not apply to the States, because the Con-stitution is not the source of their power.
The Consti-tution may restrict state governments—as it does, for example, by forbidding them to deny any person the equal protection of the laws. But where such prohibitions donot apply, state governments do not need constitutional au-thorization to act.
Rather, federalism secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power. United States, U. The independent power of the States also serves as a check on the power of the Federal Government: This case concerns two powers that the Constitution does grant the Federal Government, but which must be read carefully to avoid creating a general federal authority akin to the police power.
The power over activities that substantially affect interstate commerce can be expansive. Put simply, Congress may tax and spend. This grant gives the Federal Government considerable influence even in areas whereit cannot directly regulate.
The Federal Government may enact a tax on an activity that it cannot authorize, forbid, or otherwise control. And in exercising its spending power, Congress may offer funds to the States, and may condition those offers on compliance with specified conditions.
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These offers may well induce the States to adopt policies thatthe Federal Government itself could not impose. We have long read this provision to give Congress great latitude in exercising its powers: Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise northe prerogative to make policy judgments.
It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices. Our deference in matters of policy cannot, however, become abdication in matters of law.
Madison, 1 Cranch And there can be no question that it is the responsibility of this Court to enforce the limits on federal power by striking down acts of Congress that transgress those limits.
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