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.
JOHN ROBERTS HEALTH CARE REFORM DECISION VIDEO
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.
SUPREME COURT CHIEF JOHN ROBERTS 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.