By Teresa Welsh |
Don't you just love it? Obamacare just became Roberts-care.
American government and politics are full of ironies and that's what makes the process so fascinating. The most conservative chief justice of the Supreme Court since the 1930s just handed President Barack Obama a big policy win, legitimized the iconic achievement of his presidency, and paved the way for the biggest expansion of federal power in decades. Only in America.
By a 5-4 majority, the court ruled the individual health insurance mandate is constitutional. Four justices (Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg) ruled that Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce justified the mandate. The fifth justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, disagreed but said the law was legitimate by virtue of Congress's authority to levy taxes. All that matters is that the justices said the mandate was constitutional. It doesn't matter that the justices traveled on different roads as long as they got to the same place.
Since the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, a plurality of Americans consistently indicated opposition to the law. But if you read the fine print in the national polls, the level of opposition is misleading. Most of the features in the act are in fact quite popular. Americans overwhelmingly supported the parts of the law that stop health insurance companies from treating their customers like diseased cattle. The feature that polarized opinion on the law was the overwhelming opposition to the individual mandate. So Roberts has legitimized the only part of the law that Americans dislike and left intact the features of Obamacare that Americans value.
I'm sure that nobody game planned the battle over healthcare reform, the way it played out. But the White House has good reason to spike the football today.
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