Congress is considering H.R. 6666, the “Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone Act” (“TRACE Act”), a bill by U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
The bill ostensibly would achieve that goal by creating “mobile health units” to “conduct diagnostic testing . . . trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals” and then “support the quarantine of such contacts”—all at the cost of $100 billion.
Rush says that “increased testing and contact tracing is the only way we will get back normal and safely reopen our economy.” Essentially, Rush’s position—which is echoed by the bulk of America’s political establishment—is that America should remain locked down until everyone is tested. In other words, until everyone is cleared by the government.
The TRACE Act, like so much of the government’s response to COVID-19, will be a giant waste of money that will do nothing to keep Americans healthy or safe. Instead, it will erode what remains of our constitutional freedoms—freedoms that have been all but washed away during the pandemic’s hysteria.
‘No One Can Buy or Sell Who Does Not Have the Mark…’
Although the TRACE Act has been sponsored by more than 50 congressmen—including former presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)—it has received very little examination in the mainstream media. So let’s begin with a brief summary of H.R. 6666.
Section 2(a) of the bill provides that the government may award grants to “eligible entities” to conduct “diagnostic testing for COVID-19,” to “trace and monitor the contacts” of any infected people, and to “support the quarantine of such contacts.” This will be administered by “mobile health units,” which will provide services relating to “testing and quarantine” at people’s residences. The bill would appropriate $100 billion this year alone, and leaves open the possibility of expanding the program in subsequent years.
That is a lot to unpack.
To begin: who are the “eligible entities” that would administer these COVID-19 tests and “support the quarantine”?
According to Section 2(f)(1), they could range from a “federally qualified health center” to a nondescript “nonprofit organization.” If that were not vague enough, the bill also gives the government the discretion to declare “any other type of entity . . . to be an eligible entity.”
In other words, an “eligible entity” is anything the government would like it to be.
These “eligible entities” have a number of tasks. First, they may conduct COVID-19 tests. As the bill does not provide any direction as to how these tests will be conducted, the discretion would rest largely with those entities administering the tests—again, these could be private entities with their own agendas.
The entities will also be assigned with the task of contact tracing people who are infected with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact tracing is the process of identifying people whom the infected individual had come into contact with during their infection’s incubation or symptomatic period. The point is to root out others who may be spreading the infection and stop them from doing so.
To stop the infection’s spread, the TRACE Act would empower the entities to “support the quarantine” of identified contacts. How the mobile health units are supposed to support the quarantine is left up to the administrator’s imagination.
Finally, Section 2(e) of the bill notes that nothing contained in the law should be construed as superseding “any Federal privacy or confidentiality requirement,” and the mobile health units will only operate in areas where the infection rate is above the national average.
The Constitution also offers a set of limiting principles.
‘That Night Was Real and Not Just Fantasy’
The TRACE Act has a number of serious flaws.
First, the bill gives the government virtually unlimited discretion in defining what constitutes an “eligible entity.” An eligible entity could be a local hospital or medical clinic, but it could also be a “nonprofit organization” like George Soros’s Open Society Foundations or the Clinton Foundation. Frankly, it could even be a mercenary corporation like Blackwater—provided that the government approved them.
Not only will the TRACE Act let the government award up to $100 billion in grants to their cronies, allowing third parties to administer the program opens it up to serious abuses of process and power. Recent examples of nonprofits behaving badly make this quite clear.
Does Planned Parenthood—one of America’s largest and most infamous nonprofit organizations—care that its ostensible purpose is to advocate safe sex and birth control, and only recommend abortions as a last resort? Or does it take federal money and use it to open up secret abortion “mega-clinics”? Does Planned Parenthood uphold the letter and spirit of the Constitution when it harvests and sells organs and stem cells for aborted fetuses? No.
How about the dozens of American nonprofits that work tirelessly to bring people into the country illegally? Do they care about the rule of law? Do they care about the Constitution? Of course not. In fact, their very existence is based upon subverting American laws.
Given these examples, is it really so difficult to imagine nonprofits—masquerading as the government, replete with decaled vehicles and white lab coats—forcing people to take COVID-19 tests? Ordering people to stay inside for two weeks?
Just because the TRACE Act does not make testing mandatory, there is no reason to imagine this may not be its ultimate effect.
Snopes has responded to critics of the TRACE Act, noting that the privacy protections found in other federal legislation, as well as in the Constitution, provide ample protection from invasive testing, contact tracing, and quarantine. For example, the Constitution guarantees rights such as freedom of movement in the Privileges and Immunities Clause, freedom of speech and association in the First Amendment, the right to privacy from “unreasonable searches” in the Fourth Amendment, and protection from the deprivation of liberty in the 14th Amendment.
These protections are all well and good in theory, but they are useless in the face of this current madness. The government has used COVID-19 to effectively suspend the Constitution.
As early as February, the federal government had forced people into quarantine to contain the virus. By now, entire states have been locked down for months. Public gatherings of over 10 people have been outlawed and weddings canceled. Churches were empty on Easter Sunday, but police ticketed worshipers gathered for services in their cars. And what of the salon owner in Texas who was sentenced to seven days in jail for reopening her business during the quarantine? Even Texas’s lieutenant governor couldn’t put up with that one.
The Constitution guarantees the right to walk around outside—but are you walking around outside? Can you? Or do you live in a place where the government will now fine you, escort you home, or throw you in jail for doing that?
Finally, the TRACE Act would allow eligible entities to perform contact tracing. What does this entail? It could be as innocuous as asking people where they went and who they saw. But it could also be much more invasive.
Consider that Apple and Google are already working in “close cooperation and collaboration with… governments, and public health providers” in order to track down people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. They are doing this through “the use of Bluetooth technology” on most people’s smartphones. More important, they are doing this without your knowledge or your explicit consent.
Are we to believe that shadowy “mobile health units” would be any more transparent than public corporations like Apple? Or will they function as private eyes, snooping through people’s contact history? It is impossible to say. But the risk clearly exists.
Despite its vague language and large budget, the ominously named bill H.R. 6666 will likely accomplish little more than wasting money. Far more concerning is that the government is using COVID-19 as a pretext to suspend the rule of law, to do away with the protections enshrined in the Constitution.
The government is locking Americans in their homes against their will. People are going to jail for operating small businesses. Big technology companies are working with the government to track your whereabouts. This is all happening against a backdrop of fear—of apathy. Americans appear content to say that no matter how bad things become, ultimately the Constitution will protect them.
At this point, it should be painfully clear: The Constitution will not protect us. We must protect the Constitution.