Law of the Land: Supreme Court Upholds 'Obamacare'

Roberts sides with liberals in determining individual mandate is constitutional as a tax.

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The Supreme Court handed President Barack Obama a major victory Thursday by upholding a key part of the landmark health care legislation he shepherded through Congress in 2010.

In a surprising move, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the high court's liberal faction in determining the law's insurance requirement is constitutional. The Roberts-led faction determined the so-called "individual mandate" is constitutional as a tax.

[LIVE: Follow up-to-the minute coverage of the healthcare decision]

There were an insufficient number of votes to uphold the insurance requirement under Congress's ability to regulate commerce among the 50 states.

Roberts announced the court's ruling, which allows the controversial health care law to continue being phased in over the next few years.

The court ruled, 5 to 4, to uphold the insurance requirement.

The justices did take umbrage with one part of the so-called Affordable Care Act that expands the federal Medicaid program. But they opted against striking down that provision, determining the planned expansion is legal as long as officials in Washington do not threaten to withhold states' Medicaid allotments should they opt out of the Medicaid expansion.

[PICTURES: Protesters on Both Sides Voice Their Opinions on Health Care]

Roberts joined the high court's four liberal justices: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. In the dissenting column were Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

"The act before us here exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding," the dissenters said in a joint statement.

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at jbennett@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.