I woke up this morning to two pieces of good news.
- The US Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act, ending months of fevered anticipation.
- Unheralded world number 100 Lukas Rosol dumps Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon in the second round, opening up the draw nicely for my man, the Fed Express.
However, as the Wolf from Pulp Fiction would say (and I’m paraphrasing): let’s not get too comfortable just yet.
The big story is of course that by a 5-4 majority, the US Supreme Court found that Obama’s signature piece of legislation was constitutional (while striking down a side-provision concerning Medicaid). I am relieved. All the way leading up to the hearings, most constitutional scholars were of the opinion that there really wasn’t any doubt as to the law’s (and in particular the individual mandate’s) constitutionality. Then during oral arguments the government took a beating and things were looking dicey. I began to fear for the worst, trying to pre-emptively think of some expression of measured outrage that I would announce on Facebook when the dreaded ruling came.
Now that the decision has been handed down, I feel torn. On the one hand, I am glad Chief Justice Roberts felt the need to defer to Congress and uphold the constitutionality of a law if such a construction can be found. Great. On the other hand, this was clearly a desperate move by the conservative judge who cast his vote based more on vanity (how history will judge the Supreme Court under his stewardship) than true, measured legal reasoning.
In any case, while the outcome can be narrowly construed as a (momentous) victory for the Obama Administration, the broader implications of the court’s legal reasoning is perfectly in line with its rightward drift. Chief Justice Roberts and the other members of the conservative wing were adamant that the Commerce Clause does not support the power of Congress to compel people to do something. They’re obviously leery of Big Power for Big Government to do Big Things. They also ignore three-quarter of a century’s worth of Commerce Clause jurisprudence.
Justice Ruth Ginsburg, with whom the other three liberal justices agreed, calls Chief Justice Roberts out. What he argues for would be a “newly minted constitutional doctrine”, and it’s true. He basically pulled his argument out of his ass because he really really didn’t like what the government (led by a Democrat) enacted. Never mind that the healthcare market (and choosing whether or not to buy health insurance) is of a completely different nature to a normal market. This is why conservatives’ invocation of broccoli is so contemptible. OK I’m going to stop ranting now.
I’m beginning to understand as I get older, that in life you have to just savour the little victories. And this victory is sweet. The inevitable conservative challenge to some other Commerce Clause-enacted federal law can wait for another day. I’ve got other things keeping me up at night. The Swiss Maestro is still only in the third round!