Roundup of Reactions to Supreme Court Health Care Ruling
June 28, 2012
Jonathan H. Adler, National Review Online:
…the opinion does very little to enlarge the federal government’s power and, in key respects, reinforced federalism limitations on federal power. According to SCOTUSBlog, while Chief Justice Roberts concluded the mandate is a tax, he also rejected the Commerce Clause arguments in favor of the mandate. This is significant, because it will limit the ability of Congress to adopt additional mandates in the future. No one will be able to claim such requirements are not a tax, and this will make such requirements more difficult to enact.
Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center:
Because the High Court found that the penalty for not having coverage is a tax and not a fee or a banana, it ruled Congress has the constitutional authority to impose such a levy. In effect, the 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice Roberts concluded that Congress can tax you for failing to acquire insurance. Thus, the mandate as created by the ACA is constitutional.
But the Court rejected the White House’s main legal argument—that Congress has the authority under the Commerce Clause to require people to get insurance. It will be interesting to see how legal scholars read this in the coming weeks: Is the Court saying that tax policy is the only tool Congress has to enact certain social welfare programs? If so, it would put an already-stressed tax code under even greater pressure.
William Galston, Brookings Institution:
In a stunning decision that will define his legacy as chief justice, John Roberts broke with the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc and provided the fifth vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. While declining to uphold the Act under the Commerce Clause, Roberts argued that the mandate could pass constitutional muster as an exercise of Congress’s power to tax. In so doing, he refrained from providing a precedent for what many conservatives regard as an unprecedented expansion of an already expanded New Deal Commerce Clause about which they have grave reservations.
Josh Barro, Bloomberg View:
Today’s Supreme Court ruling upheld the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. But it did strike down one part of the law—the provision that withdraws all Medicaid funding from states that do not expand eligibility to all people under age 65 living below 133 percent of the poverty line. States that do not expand eligibility will have to forgo only those federal funds that would have financed the expanded coverage, not all Medicaid funds.
Some people are fretting about this. They worry that states will opt out and low-income people in conservative states will be left without coverage. But I think we will have expanded Medicaid in all 50 states in pretty short order.
Robert Alt and Nina Owcharenko, Heritage Foundation:
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare reflects a tragic misreading of the law, one which could cost us not just economically but also in terms of liberty. On the bright side, the Court recognized that there are limits to what Congress may do under the Commerce Clause. But this was the silver-lining of a dark cloud. The Court then fundamentally misreads ObamaCare, contorting to find another authority—the power to tax—for Congress to enact the law.
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