This week we celebrate an enormous, surprising decision. With a 5-4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the main components of the Affordable Care Act. Significantly, they found the individual mandate, bete noir of the Radical Right, to be a reasonable congressional act under the authority to tax. Given the court’s rightward tilt of late, America was stunned. We’re pretty shocked here at TSM, too. Awarding a majority SCOTUS opinion the HWA is not anything we thought would happen any time soon.
This is a major victory not just for President Obama and the Democrats who worked so hard to pass even a mediocre health care bill. It is a victory for all Americans. The ACA, however flawed, is a significant step toward real care for all Americans. Without it, the poorest and the disenfranchised would continue to suffer, sicken, and die. Disproportionate impacts would be felt along racial, gender, and class lines, making it harder and harder for those with the least to ever succeed. This Constitutionally sound victory — complete with a cease-and-desist order on the current challenges to the ACA — should let us move forward as a nation. We’ll see how the Republicans in Congress (John Boehner was crying so hard he called off his press conference!) try to cock it all up.
It’s fun to speculate why Chief Justice Roberts joined the more liberal justices in this opinion, just as it is important to note that Justice Kennedy has put the final nail in the coffin of his “swing vote” status. Roberts’ reasons don’t really matter, however: he did the right thing. We all owe these five Justices a debt of thanks this week. (For a great guide to the legal aspects of the decision in straightforward layman’s language, the ever excellent Ari Ezra Waldman has an analysis here.)