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Divided Reaction to Final Decision on ObamaCare

Posted on the 29 June 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

Support for the Affordable Care Act  as the Supreme Court upholds its constitutionality. Support for the Affordable Care Act, as the Supreme Court upholds its constitutionality.

The background

The US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s controversial health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, in a 5 to 4 decision that saw a conservative Chief Justice going against the grain.

The decision, in plain English: At the heart of the debate over the legislation’s constitutionality was the individual mandate, the requirement that nearly all Americans have health insurance. The complex decision – which was initially interpreted incorrectly by Fox News and CNN, who both rushed to put out stories claiming that Court struck down the legislation – has been interpreted variously, according to political leaning, but it basically says that the mandate is constitutional under Congress’s ability to tax. The mandate, Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned, is essentially a tax on people who do not buy health insurance and Congress is within its rights to impose taxes. Amy Howe at the SCOTUS Live blog explained, “If someone who does not want to buy health insurance is willing to pay the tax, that’s the end of the matter; the government cannot do anything else.”

Whilst some Americans are relieved, others, of course, are enraged (with a very small minority threatening to move to Canada, heedless, evidently, of the fact that Canada has had socialized health care since 1984).  And then there’s the all important question – how is this going to play in November, when Obama faces Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the presidential election?

A ‘weird victory for federalism’

Randy Barnett, professor of law at Georgetown University and one of the foremost critics of the legislation, writing at SCOTUS Live blog, declared that the Court’s decision actually upholds the limiting, rather than expansion, of Congress’s powers. This decision underscores the “judicially enforceable limit on federal power”, in that it claimed that the individual mandate exceeded Congress’s power under the commerce clause in asking people to do business with private companies. “The Founders’ scheme of limited and enumerated powers has survived to fight another day.”

A victory for federalism, but not the law

David Rivkin, Jr., and Lee Casey, two Washington lawyers, writing at the Wall Street Journal agreed with Barnett that the Court’s decision limited Congress’s powers, but complained that the Court “itself engaged in a quintessentially legislative activity—redrafting the law’s unambiguous text”: “The court struck down ObamaCare as enacted by Congress and upheld a new ObamaCare of its own making.” That the law was upheld through a bit of “judicial copyediting” “raises questions about the court’s ability to remain immune to political pressures.”

Not a victory for anyone

With the Court’s interpretation of the individual mandate as a tax, Obama has now broken his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class, wrote Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, at conservative site National Review Online. Moreover, “the government can’t create a system that will reduce costs while increasing access and services”; this ruling then, “leaves us with a bloated government, too much spending, too much debt, less freedom, and a system that doesn’t even take care of poor people that well.” James Copland, of the Manhattan Institute, in the same publication, agreed: “From a policy standpoint, Obamacare remains the disaster it was before Thursday’s decision.”

Students supporting ObamaCare outside Court

What’s going to happen in November? Conservatives find rallying cause

Obama’s win on Thursday might not translate to a win in November, if the conservatives arrayed against him have anything to say about it. “Obamacare” is once again a stick to beat the President with, this time with the notion that the legislation is a tax as a nail at the end. Writing at National Review Online, Brian Burch of saw the election as a referendum on the healthcare legislation, while Chris Chocola of the Club for Growth declared, “The Republican party should continue to push for full repeal of Obamacare and work to replace it with market-based solutions that will bring down costs and increase quality. Anything less is unacceptable. This election is going to be about the choice between the Democrats, who want to increase government intrusion into nearly every aspect of our lives, and fiscal conservatives who believe that America should be like America, not Europe. The stakes couldn’t be higher.”

An opportunity for Obama as November approaches

Republicans expected a victory out of the Supreme Court decision – some strategists even warned party leaders not to gloat over the decision – but a loss may have just handed them a rallying point. However, as Dan Balz pointed out in a piece of analysis for The Washington Post, the decision gives “the president a fresh opportunity to try to win the political argument over the law, or at least do a better job of trying to sway a skeptical electorate than he and his team have done since the measure was enacted.” Moreover, Republicans would likely struggle to repeal the legislation, putting the focus on a protracted congressional dog fight rather than on what people really want, an improved economy. Ultimately, this is a referendum on what kind of direction America wants to go in, and the voters are the “ultimate arbiters of which path and leader they prefer.”

November doesn’t matter – this ruling has longer term consequences

Eugene Robinson, writing at The Washington Post, dismissed the immediate affect the decision has on Obama’s chances in November as secondary and declared, “Much more important is what the ruling means in the long term for the physical and moral health of the nation.” What the law gives America is “underlying assumption that every American, rich or poor, should have access to adequate health care.”

Obama address the nation on the Court’s decision

More on the health care legislation

  • Supreme Court upholds health care legislation
  •  What if Obamacare falls?
  • Obama’s health care overhaul in jeopardy

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