Constitutional Law

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare!


This month the Supreme Court will finally decide on whether Obamacare is constitutional. There has been a lot – and I mean A LOT – of debate in the media about what this law means for America, and whether it is going away. But very little of the debate has had anything to do with what the law is about (the commerce clause) and what the Supremes have decided before on that issue (its precedent).

Everyone has his or her own thoughts on the topic, including me. So before the actual decision is announced, I wanted to put my thoughts down on paper. So here goes:

The Affordable Healthcare Act will be up-held 5 to 3 with Scalia, Alito, and Thomas dissenting (Justice Kagan recused herself).

At the center of the issue is the Commerce Clause that gives Congress the power to regulate commerce as between the states. From the 1820s to the 1930s, the Court interpreted the clause very narrowly: If the law at issue didn’t directly affect interstate commerce, the Court struck it down.

Then, in the 1930s, came the New Deal. The New Deal was far-reaching legislation that affected almost every American and affected almost every industry in America (banking, farming, steel). The Court, realizing times had changed since it’s last decision on the Commerce Clause, eventually began to apply the Commerce Clause broadly, essentially stating that if the law had anything to do with commerce, it would be upheld.

Now we come to Obamacare. I believe the media is asking the wrong question. The media asks “Will the Court uphold the law?” when the question is really “Will the Court reverse the sum of its decisions since the 1930s?” In order for the Court to strike down the law, it has to reverse its precedent for the past 80 years or so. Keep in mind the Court has upheld laws that have had less of an impact on interstate commerce than the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Chief Justice Roberts is very much a “stare decisis” type of guy. In other words, if it’s been decided, and that decision is correct, he is very hesitant to make changes. Take Roberts plus the liberal bench and you have a majority.

A far better summary of this issue can be heard here on NPR.

What I don’t want to see: Supremes kill health care “just because”


Ever hears someone else’s idea and instantly think “that’s stupid” or “that’s genius.” And then after saying “that’s stupid/genius,” you begin to put together your argument as to WHY it is stupid or genius? Most everyone makes snap decisions about life’s topics, later putting in the reasoning to justify the decision. I sure hope that doesn’t happen at the Supreme Court.

Last month the United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the Obama Administration’s health care reform act. The law, which gives millions of Americans affordable health care, was challenged on the basis that, among other things, the requirement that all Americans purchase health care or face a penalty, was unconstitutional.

Supreme Court justices are human. They carry certain ideologies like everyone else. Justice Scalia, for example, is one of the conservative voices on the bench, if not the conservative voice. Justice Sotomayor, by contrast, is more liberal. Regardless of the ideologies, what I do not want to see are the Justices deciding the health care question based on a quick ideological-based decision with the argument behind it “back-doored” in. The Justices should keep an open mind and answer one question and one question only: Is this law constitutional?

The justices should ignore any past ideologies and follow a path of putting the case law together, analyzing the potential effect the decision will have at each step, and conferring with colleagues, to reach a well-thought out deicsion. I understand that along the way, it will become apparent that different justices will look at the same issue through different windows. But my concern is that Justices like Scalia and Sotomayor have already made up their minds regarding the ultimate decision, and are now trying to find a justification that reaches his or her pre-determined conclusion.