To set the stage: An individual mandate is a requirement by a government that certain individual citizens purchase or otherwise obtain a good or service. In the case of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed in 2010, the government requires people to buy a good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States, namely a health care insurance plan approved by the government or pay a penalty. Under the rule, most Americans will have to carry insurance starting in 2014. Otherwise, the federal government will levy a penalty on them starting at $95 a year or 1% of their taxable annual income, whichever is greater. By 2016, the penalty rises to $695 a year or 2.5% of taxable income, up to a maximum of $2,085 a year for a family. Individuals and employers will have to inform the federal government of whether they are carrying insurance and whether it meets the law's requirements.
Such a requirement to enter into an act of commerce or pay a penalty is largely unprecedented in US law; hence, the case pending before the Supreme Court.
Now for the entertainment: Here's how some of our best and brightest in Congress responded to the question "where does the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact an “individual mandate?”:
Rep. XXXX - "Are you serious? Are you serious?"
Rep. XXX cited the “Good and Welfare Clause” as the source of Congress’s authority [there is no such clause].
Rep. XXX responded, “the federal government can do most anything in this country.” [fails to grasp the concept of enumerated and limited powers]
Rep. XXX replied, “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do. How about [you] show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this?”
Rep. XXX said “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this, to be honest [...] It doesn’t matter to me.” When asked, “Where in the Constitution does it give you the authority …?” He replied, “I don’t know.”
Sen. XXX said he is “not aware” of which Constitutional provision authorizes the healthcare bill.
Sen. XXX added, “We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there’s no authority?”
Sen. XXX told a questioner, “I’ll leave that up to the constitutional lawyers on our staff.”
(Names withheld to spare those who voted for them the embarrassment.)
Yes, these are some of the genius sworn to protect and defend the Constitution. "I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."