The Constitutional Law and Politics of the Affordable Care Act

This course will conduct a case study of the recently enacted health care legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010) (to be codified at 42 U.S.C. § 18001). The case study will seek to accomplish two primary objectives.

The first objective will be to illustrate how the federal legislative process functions when Congress passes historic legislation. Topics will include the history of past efforts at health care reform at the national level; the roles of congressional committees and individual members; the ways in which members negotiate potential tradeoffs between their principled commitments and strategic considerations; the importance of presidential politics and leadership; and the extent to which anticipated constitutional challenges helped to shape the final bill that emerged out of Congress.

The second objective will be to examine how other institutions and actors respond to Congress when Congress passes highly consequential and controversial legislation. Those institutions and actors include state political officials, particularly governors and attorneys general; social movements such as the Tea Party; the federal trial and appellate courts; and the legal academy. Readings and discussion will focus on constitutional objections to, and defenses of, the law's minimum coverage provision in state and local political debates, the news media, constitutional litigation in the federal courts, and the law review literature.

There are two assigned books for the course: (1) The Staff of the Washington Post, Landmark: The Inside Story of America's New Health-Care Law and What It Means for Us All (2010); and (2) David Blumenthal & James A. Morone, The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office (2009). Additional reading from other sources will be distributed electronically.
Course number: 
Course Credits: 
Course Curriculum: 
Course Type: 


Past Sections