Political News

John Roberts’ Health Care Reform Decision

Supreme Court Decision Has Real Consequences

WASHINGTON 7/15/2012 12:53 PM GMT (WooEB)




Amid all the informed speculation about why Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts came down in favor of affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform), some facts are indisputable: There is no question that the top lawyer in the land started some very consequential political conversations. 




By being the decisive fifth vote allowing Obamacare to continue to be implemented and an attendant Medicare penalty to be ignored, Roberts affected the actions of state and federal health regulators. Governors in at least two states were validated in their resistance to some Obamacare statutes and showed new defiance. Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen
Sebilius concluded, on the other hand, that the court had given the law its blessing and geared up to press ahead.


By joining the four identifiably more conservative judges on the court in throwing out the sweeping argument that the Commerce Clause was infinitely elastic, Roberts reined in future government expansions of authority using the clause as a pretext. The decision ended the glee of Obamacare supporters who had loudly proclaimed that tying the mandate to the Commerce Clause was obviously constitutional.


And the chief justice took the Supreme Court right out of the thick of public discussions about it being an “activist” bench, making laws instead of ruling on them akin to the Warren Court. Suddenly, liberal complaints about Roberts’ activism disappeared and the stature of the court was burnished. Liberal critics of the court probably are of two minds about this development, but they hardly can voice any complaint without undercutting the decision.



Finally, John Roberts handed the political argument about the efficacy of Obamacare back to politicians and the public. Roberts said flat out that the political merits of the health care law are a matter for politicians to decide. “We do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders,” he wrote.


The court’s decision surprised nearly everyone, and initial reaction to it was confused on both sides of the debate. In the long run, the court’s significant ruling is apt to fuel political and judicial rethinking across the spectrum of public opinion.



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