Only two things are certain in life: death and taxes.
The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Chief Justice John Roberts has upheld the individual mandate. But not under the Commerce Clause. Instead, Roberts has said that the law can proceed under Congress’s ability to tax.
It’s a tax. That thing that Democrats were trying so hard not to do so Republicans couldn’t call Obama a “tax and spend” Democrat is now called a tax by the Supreme Court. And now it’s a victory. Until the GOP starts saying that Obama “raised your taxes.”
I LOVE AMERICA. It’s so funny sometimes.
Oh, we’re going to have more coverage after the jump, including the vote breakdown (and other updates)….
As many suspected, the vote was 5-4, but not 5-4 the way we thought. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, was joined by Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Supposed swing vote Anthony Kennedy, along with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, dissented.
It seems to me that this decision gives the Court the appearance of impartiality that it has not had since Bush v. Gore. That’s the headline win for the Court.
UPDATE: But there might be an even bigger win engineered by Roberts here. Remember your Marbury v. Madison. In that case, Chief Justice John Marshall gave
President Madison the executive branch what it wanted. But while giving the President a victory, Marshall established the right of judicial review, which ended up being a much bigger deal than Marbury’s silly appointment.
Here, let’s not forget, Roberts said that this was beyond the power of the Commerce Clause. When was the last time that happened? It’s a huge limitation on the power of the government under the Commerce Clause, and we might be seeing the ripple effects of that for years.
UPDATE: And now the full opinion is available online.
UPDATE: David Lat points out that this is a victory for Neal Katyal. As acting Solicitor General, Katyal really pressed the argument that the individual mandate was constitutional under the the government’s taxing authority.
So that’s great — even in victory, there’s a way to steal Don Verrilli’s thunder.
UPDATE: If this is going to be the Chief Justice’s legacy, it is a pretty good one. The talking heads are reacting to the politics of it, but for the Court, this is all about legitimacy. It’s a legitimacy that the Court lost with Bush v. Gore. But now we can clearly say that Bush v. Gore was “the other guy.” That was the Rehnquist Court. And Rehnquist isn’t here anymore.
This is the Roberts Court. And here, we’ve got a pro-business Court that interprets laws as constitutional when it can. Roberts found a way to keep this law in-bounds — without abandoning his conservative principles on the expansion of federal power. The conservatives “disappointed” with Roberts today are being silly and can’t see the long game here. The Commerce Clause has been limited AND the Court looks non-partisan. Beat that with a stick.
The Chief is probably somewhere smoking a cigar, feeling like the smartest guy in the room.
UPDATE: I’ve read through the Medicaid part of the decision, and I can’t say it better than Kevin Russell on SCOTUSblog:
The Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion is divided and complicated. The bottom line is that: (1) Congress acted constitutionally in offering states funds to expand coverage to millions of new individuals; (2) So states can agree to expand coverage in exchange for those new funds; (3) If the state accepts the expansion funds, it must obey by the new rules and expand coverage; (4) but a state can refuse to participate in the expansion without losing all of its Medicaid funds; instead the state will have the option of continue the its current, unexpanded plan as is.
Basically, if states don’t want to expand Medicaid to all of their people, just because they hate the President, they’re free to do so. Have fun, governors.