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"As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule." - Albert Einstein

“Obamacare” Survives Attack

Posted: June 28, 2012 Filed under: Case Law, Commentary, Law-Related News

In a 5-4 vote, with usually conservative-leaning Chief Justice Roberts casting the deciding vote, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is derisively or affectionately, depending on one’s perspective, known “Obamacare.” The opinion is HERE. The controversial individual mandate was upheld on the basis government’s third argument – that the mandate is a tax. As the Court notes in footnote 11 on page 44:

Those subject to the individual mandate may lawfully forgo health insurance and pay higher taxes, or buy health insurance and pay lower taxes. The only thing they may not lawfully do is not buy health insurance and not pay the resulting tax.

The court did, however, restrict the federal government’s power to withhold existing Medicaid funding from states that fail to accept additional federal funds to expand the availability of health care. Seven members of the court agreed in that regard.

The four dissenting justices would have declared the entire Act unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Roberts provides an invaluable lesson regarding separation of powers and the role of courts on page two of the majority opinion. Thalia Burks, my high school civics teacher, lectured the same lesson many, many times.

In our federal system, the National Government possesses only limited powers; the States and the people retain the remainder. Nearly two centuries ago, Chief Justice Marshall observed that “the question respecting the extent of the powers actually granted” to the Federal Government “is perpetually arising, and will probably continue to arise, as long as our system shall exist.” McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 405 (1819). In this case we must again determine whether the Constitution grants Congress powers it now asserts, but which many States and individuals believe it does not possess. Resolving this controversy requires us to examine both the limits of the Government’s power, and our own limited role in policing those boundaries.

We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.

Admitted: Florida, Kansas, New Mexico (inactive)