I was checking CNN.com at 9:15am central time, which announced the Supreme Court of the United States found the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
Not quite “Dewey Defeats Truman” because CNN promptly corrected its headline, which I first noticed at 9:35am, when I was started to search for the text of the 10th Amendment.
This is my initial draft of my thoughts when I thought the Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional:
So now what?
Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States found President Obama/Nancy Pelosi’s Affordable Care Act (dubbed “Obamacare”) unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Congress cannot require individuals to buy health insurance.
One shouldn’t be surprised by the ruling. Looking at the 10th Amendment and the push and pull between states’ rights and the rights of the federal government, a Congressional requirement that people buy health care coverage or be taxed, seemed to me at least, a federal overreach.
Upon turning to the internet to find the text of the text of the 10th Amendment, I learned of CNN.com’s mistake. The Affordable Care Act had been ruled, in a 5-4 vote, constitutional.
Now that I know the Supreme Court upheld the law, what I now find more interesting, is how the SCOTUS voted. Many legal experts thought the ruling would come down 5-4, with the liberal wing of the Court finding in favor of the law, the conservatives ruling against the law with Justice Anthony Kennedy acting as the deciding vote between the wings. Justice Kennedy finds himself in that position in many cases before the Court.
The Court's four liberal justices (Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) ruled that the individual mandate could be upheld as part of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. Justice John Roberts disagreed with that argument, but found in favor of the law, ruling that the payment made to the government for failure to buy health insurance is actually a tax (which is something Congress has the power to levy). Under the law, people who do not have health insurance will have to pay 1% of their income to the IRS starting in 2014.
In this case, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court. Roberts’ vote on the Act decided the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” Justice Kennedy read from the bench that he and the other three conservative justices (Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) found “the entire Act before us invalid.”
For all the anger and partisan bickering “Obamacare” has caused since 2009, the law only affects roughly 6% of the population: those who will be required to buy health insurance in 2014. Also, many of the popular provisions of the law have already gone into effect. Millions have already taken advantage of those provisions, including the provision allowing children to stay on parents’ health insurance policies until the age of 26 and the provision disallowing insurance companies from turning away patients with preexisting conditions (this only applies to children currently).
Hopefully (although it’s doubtful) now that the Supreme Court has ruled, maybe the right can focus its anger on the portions of the law it finds untenable rather than the entire law. The thing about the debate that irked me the most was seeing John Boehner and other leading Republicans consistently saying that they agreed with Democrats on 80% of the provisions. My question during that debate was why didn’t they get together and cobble out an agreement based upon areas of agreement?
(Granted, the 20% the parties disagreed upon was likely funding/implementation issues, but I don’t recall a debate where the parties said: this is what we agree upon, here is where we disagree, what do you think? The debate was a demonization of Obamacare and by extension, Obama, or you stood behind the president.)
And it shouldn’t be about the president. It should be a reasoned debate on the area of disagreement so the uninsured can have healthcare—if most of us agree that health insurance should be available to everyone.
But, of course it is about Obama. And now the November election will be about striking down “Obamacare” and terrorizing independent voters into thinking Obamacare will threaten the American Dream and therefore by beating Obama, that dream will be saved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even if Obama goes down to defeat in November, Obamacare likely isn’t going anywhere, unless we see a seismic shift in the Senate.
But at least the election won’t be about the soul of the Supreme Court. Constant 5-4 decisions based upon ideological divides, coupled with partisan bickering being included within legal opinions, had me thinking about the necessity of some sort of reform of the Supreme Court. Some sort of reformation of the Supreme Court is still probably necessary, but at least for today, I like the feeling that John Roberts (and Anthony Kennedy) at least, could look at a set of facts, look at the Constitution and decide an issue on its merits. If we had seven more Justices who were able to do that, the future of the Supreme Court would not be one of the factors I consider when I step into a ballot box every fourth November.
Filed under: National Politics