by Benjamin J. Kirby
I don't know what the Supreme Court is going to say on the Affordable Care Act -- "Obamacare".
I've read a lot about the Court, but I'm still an amateur at best on what they may say or why they may say something. After all, with their conservative tilt, who might have guessed they'd basically gut the barbaric Arizona immigration law? (And Jan Brewer can call it victory all she wants, but what the beating heart of the Justice Kennedy-written opinion was that "the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law." A blow for the states-rights conservatives if I ever heard it.) Indeed, who would have thought this Court would have banned states from imposing inhumane mandatory life sentences on juveniles.
Still, everyone acknowledges the Obama health care reform efforts are something else entirely.
There are a handful of different scenarios out there, all of which amount to versions of three different things: they uphold the entire law, the strike down the entire law, or they uphold most of the law but strike down the individual mandate piece.
If you're making me guess, I'd suppose they might look at the third one, there.
But then again, I'm not so sure. Maybe not.
Like I said, I've read a lot about the Court recently, but I'm not a lawyer. I don't know what the individual members of the Court might be thinking. I've also read a lot about Chief Justice Roberts lately, too, and there may be one thing I know about him that I am pretty sure is true: he is aware of the image of the Court, and he is aware of the history and the gravity of the moment. It is for these reasons he almost assuredly orchestrated things so that he would author the majority opinion in the case.
I know that Supreme Court Justices do not decide cases based on poll numbers, popularity, or -- theoretically -- their own political biases or opinions. They decide them based on the Constitutionality of the law before them.
I'll say it one more time: I'm not a lawyer, but I can't imagine that there's not more than just the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on the Chief Justice's mind.
In closing, let's shift to the Executive Branch quickly. Suppose the Court overturns Obamacare, or even just the individual mandate. This may be a short-term defeat for President Obama, but I'm not so sure it is not a longer term policy gain if he wins re-election.
All the progressives and lefties squawked for forever when Obama basically dropped the idea of universal coverage.
But if the individual mandate -- the Federal government requiring you to purchase something from a private health insurance provider -- is overturned, doesn't he have an interesting opening? Couldn't he come back in January of 2013, just after his inauguration, and say, Well, the Supremes said no-go on the mandate. Let's just do universal coverage. A long-angry wing of the base would have nowhere to go, the right-wing whackos -- presumably still running at least half of Congress -- would be hemmed into the ultimate box, and Americans would be on the verge of universal health care coverage.
Easier said than done, I know. We've got an election to get through, after all.
That, and a Supreme Court decision to read.