With the surprising swing vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court announced their ruling Thursday to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, and it’s controversial “individuala mandate” component.
With a 5-4 majority, the court held that the mandate violates the Commerce Clause but was affirmed constitutional as a taxing power, and the law was upheld. Writing in the majority, Roberts said that it’s not the court’s job to decide whether Obama’s plan “embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders.”
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts wrote.
Despite upholding the law, the court’s disagreement with the logic that the government argued–Congress had the authority to pass the mandate as part of the Commerce Clause–and further identifying Obamacare as a tax, the decision may have some long-lasting negative implications for liberals. Some have argued that the path Roberts led the court in the decision will be an end for the Commerce Clause, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan; “The Chief Justice’s crabbed reading of the Commerce Clause harks back to the era in which the Court routinely thwarted Congress’ efforts to regulate the national economy in the interest of those who labor to sustain it.”
“This is a substantial rollback of Congress’ regulatory powers, and the chief justice knows it,” Tom Scocca writes in a Slate post titled “Obama Wins the Battle, Roberts Wins the War.”
In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama spoke in opposition to Roberts’ nomination, saying he did not trust his political philosophy on tough questions such as “whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce.” Today, Roberts did what Obama predicted he would do.
Roberts’ genius was in pushing this health care decision through without attaching it to the coattails of an ugly, narrow partisan victory. Obama wins on policy, this time. And Roberts rewrites Congress’ power to regulate, opening the door for countless future challenges. In the long term, supporters of curtailing the federal government should be glad to have made that trade.
“Real News” launched the show Thursday breaking down the ins and outs of the ruling, and discussed what legal precedent this decision may set for years to come.