Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare
Posted by Lucia Rafanelli on June 28, 2012
Earlier today, the Supreme Court announced its ruling in the case regarding the piece of legislation that has captivated US politics since its passage over two years ago– the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). In a 5-4 vote, the court decided the law not-so-affectionately termed “Obamacare” is constitutional.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, explaining that the court concluded that PPACA would not to be allowable simply in virtue of the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause, but that it was acceptable as a manifestation of the federal government’s constitutional power to tax citizens. In his opinion, he explained:
The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce.” Art. I, §8, cl. 3 (emphasis added). The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of com- mercial activity to be regulated.
The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Con- gress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.
The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain in- dividuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Be- cause the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.
Predictably, many Democrats came out in favor of the decision, and many Republicans denounced it. Notably, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the decision “a victory for the American people,” while Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said, “This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is a dark day for American liberty.”