The decision by the US Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act mandate as a tax was a stunning surprise to many. Probably no one was more surprised that President Obama. He has seemed apprehensive that his signature legislative accomplishment was about to be thrown out.
What was also surprising was that the swing vote in the 5-4 decision was Chief Justice John Roberts. Most speculation had focused on Justice Anthony Kennedy. And equally surprising was the realization that Roberts could have taken then entire health care act down 5-4 had he sided with the conservatives who, in their dissents, said flatly that the mandate was unconstitutional and the rest of the act had to fall with it as an unconstitutionally broad overreach in the commerce clause.
But why did Chief Justice Roberts side with the President in this case?
And did the Chief Justice just pin the target on the President’s chest instead of having it pinned to his own back?
The beauty of this decision is the ruthless efficiency with which the Chief Justice has made the Affordable Care Act the central political issues in the November 2012 election instead of taking the burden on the back of the Court for undermining the President and Congress. The decision protects the Supreme Court from being dragged into the political debate over the wisdom of the law while forcing the proponents of the law to defend it all over again in the court of public opinion.
The decision of the Chief Justice seems to follow the advice from two of the three Appeals Court decisions that were taken on review.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and the D.C. circuit Court of Appeals said in their decisions that while the law is intrusive it is within Congress’s power to enact. The Washington Post quoted from the opinion of Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, a Ronald Reagan appointee, who said:
“It certainly is an encroachment on individual liberty, but it is no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race, that gravely ill individuals cannot use a substance their doctors described as the only effective palliative for excruciating pain, or that a farmer cannot grow enough wheat to support his own family.”
In deciding the case by upholding the law as a tax and limiting Congress’ power under the commerce clause, Chief Justice Roberts has sidestepped the political debate that will rage and fixed the accountability for the political wisdom of the act where it belongs—on the President and Congress.
- Politico Warns Chief Justice Roberts (rushlimbaugh.com)
- The Supreme Court’s unusual moment in the spotlight (theneteconomy.wordpress.com)
- The Real Affordable Care Act Battle: Constitutionalists vs. Confederates (theatlantic.com)
- Did Justice Roberts Trade Votes with Justice Kennedy? (americanthinker.com)
- Senator Leahy Threatens Justice Roberts In Advance of the Obamacare Decision (independentsentinel.com)
- Supreme Court decision on polarizing health care law looms (cnn.com)
- A Look Back at Court’s Arguments on Health Care, Laugh Count Included (nytimes.com)
The soap opera playing out over raising the US debt ceiling is more politics than reality. Neither political party wants to go into the 2012 elections with responsibility for more red ink on their shoes. The United States is not going to default in our payments of principal and interest on our debt and everyone knows this. That is why the markets have watched this debate with relative calm and baked into the numbers a presumption that some last minute face-saving deal will be done once enough mud had been slung on the face of the opposing party.
But while this may be politics as usual there are instructive lessons about new realities resulting:
- Our Negative view of our Elected Leaders is confirmed. As voters we have tolerated the slovenly behavior of our elected officials and the way they spend our money. The debt ceiling has been raised scores of times in the past without much debate. This time it has become a big deal because while Democrats and Republicans are using it to score points, the rest of us are using it to measure the people we elected by their approval ratings in the polls. Congress scores worse than the President, but his ratings are racing to the bottom to match them.
- It’s the Debt, Stupid. The debate in Washington may be about raising the debt ceiling. The debate on Main Street is about the enormous size of the accumulated debt and the reckless willingness to keep spending. We’ve lost confidence in our leaders because we see them weakening our country, undermining our values, and stealing from our children to play politics.
- President Obama is a Disappointment. We elected Barack Obama because he inspired us to live into our aspirations as a great nation. We demonstrated once again de Toquiville’s 200 year old observation that America has the capacity to reinvent ourselves for the challenges we face. We hoped that the change the President spoke of would lead us there. But he baited and switched us reverting to the most corrosive form of class warfare, entitlement expansion and free-spending liberal instead of the centrist we thought we were choosing. We needed the president to help fix our broken economy but his policies have made it worse. So “Yes We Can” is turning into “Oh, No We Won’t” as the president misread his mandate and no longer seems a good fit for our needs, as the voters might say as we hand him his pink slip.
- Democrats and Republicans are both the same, but the TEA Party member have scruples. This is the ‘pox on both your houses’ lesson we seem to keep relearning. The partisan differences are real and debating them is good but we’re losing confidence in both parties because we have come to believe their debates have more to do with scoring points than principles. While the President and Democrats have trashed the TEA party candidates and tried to discredit those who were elected a funny thing has emerged. The TEA party members are the only group that has remained true to the principles they told us about as candidates. TEA party members in the House have given speaker Boehner fits with their unwillingness to cave into demands for compromise over spending cuts. While their resistance has delayed a settlement of the debt ceiling issue, it fundamentally frames the 2012 election debate around the core issue of spending, overspending and more spending that got us into the debt overhang we face. Thank you!!!!!
- Whose Country is this Anyway! This debate has been a constant reminder of our core values and the choices we face as a nation. We’ve been slackers as citizens coasting along letting our elected representatives get away with bloat, blather, and balderdash on our behalf and with our checkbook. It is like groundhog day only we are watching the movie Network and the line keeps being repeated over and over again:
“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”
The 2012 election is a referendum not only on President Obama and our overspending ways. It is also a referendum on incumbents and most will be found wanting. It won’t be a good year for candidates, we’ve been tricked before with uplifting speeches. We’re looking for real people who share our values and will do what they promise once elected.
- Trey Ellis: Debt Ceiling Is Health Care All Over Again (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mitchell Bard: Lesson From the Debt Ceiling Negotiations: The GOP Is Now Run by Far Right Ideologues (huffingtonpost.com)
- Boehner’s two-step plan: Risky politics (capitolhillblue.com)
- The Future Of America, Or Politics As Usual? (trueconservatism115.wordpress.com)
- Armageddon clock ticks down on debt deal (fullcomment.nationalpost.com)
- Boehner delays vote on his debt-ceiling measure (seattlepi.com)
- Death To The Debt Ceiling Negotiations! (huffingtonpost.com)
- Analysis: The politics behind Boehner’s two-step debt hike – Reuters (news.google.com)
- US debt ceiling crisis: Why Republicans won’t compromise | James Antle (guardian.co.uk)
- Tea party to Boehner: Stand firm (capitolhillblue.com)