To the surprise of just about everyone, John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, voted with the four most liberal members of the Supreme Court to uphold the individual mandate that is the cornerstone of the law known as "Obamacare."
Reaction to the decision, which produced no small amount of confusion across Washington, was nonetheless swift. Liberal supporters of the law spiked the football, as when the executive director of the Democratic National Committee—a former White House political staffer—tweeted out, "It's constitutional. Bitches." Conservative opponents of Obamacare, meanwhile, vowed to fight on.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement:
Today's decision makes one thing clear: Congress must act to repeal this misguided law. Obamacare has not only limited choices and increased health care costs for American families, it has made it harder for American businesses to hire. Today's decision does nothing to diminish the fact that Obamacare's mandates, tax hikes, and Medicare cuts should be repealed and replaced with common sense reforms that lower costs and that the American people actually want. It is my hope that with new leadership in the White House and Senate, we can enact these step-by-step solutions and prevent further damage from this terrible law.
House Speaker John Boehner was of similar mind, saying:
The president's health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety. What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to health care reform that will protect Americans' access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare.
Reaction on down the political food chain echoed the theme that the Supreme Court's decision leaves as the only alternative the full repeal of Obamacare, if not in this Congress then in the next. The fact that the court found, by a vote of five to four, that the individual mandate is constitutional doesn't not make it good policy. It does not make the numbers add up. It does not keep Obamacare from blowing the deficit up even more—and for as far as the eye can see. And it does not mean that the interposition of federal bureaucrats between doctors and patients in determining appropriate levels of care will improve the quality of medicine in the United States.
The famed economist Milton Friedman once said something to the effect that people too often form their opinions of government action based on the intentions of those crafting laws and regulations rather than the effect those laws and regulations have on the public needs being addressed. There is no guarantee that Obamacare will make healthcare in America better—"even if the mandate is constitutional"—and there are plenty of indications that it will make it worse.
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