With the Supreme Court back in session, one of the hot button items on their agenda is whether or not to hear one of the two petitions pending for a ruling on the constitutionality of the Accountable Care Act (ACA). It is unclear whether the Court will hear both petitions, combine the petitions, or choose to hear just one. However, most Court watchers believe that the Court will hear something, and it will happen soon.
Oral arguments will likely take place in the spring with a decision set for June or July 2012. There are a couple possible outcomes. The Supreme Court could hold the entire act to be constitutional. In that case, the provisions and deadlines of the act would proceed as laid out, unless a new Congress were to repeal all or some of the Act prior to the inception of the deadlines. The Supreme Court could also hold parts of the Act Unconstitutional, such as the individual mandate, while leaving other parts of the Act in tact. In this case, Congress would need to go back to square one, if they wanted to revisit those issues, under the guidance of the Court ruling. Lastly, and probably most unlikely, the Court could hold the entire Act as Unconstitutional, and the US would be back to square one as if nothing ever happened.
I am not a Supreme Court expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do read a good deal on the Court. Most of the “experts” are predicting a close vote, with Justice Kennedy being the swing vote. For those of you who don’t follow Supreme Court rulings in detail, in most contentious cases, the Court splits 4 to 4 with one of the more moderate Justices providing the swing vote to either side to make it a 4-5 majority. The same is expected to happen in this case.
This is a pretty scary proposition to me. While I have the utmost respect for the Court and I strongly believe in the separation of powers with the Court holding the ability to overrule the legislature, the thought that one Justice can basically change the course of Healthcare in this country is a little unsettling.
Now I know the naysayers will say, it isn’t just one Justice, you had all the members of Congress that voted, then you had all the Judges on the lower courts, and there are the other Supreme Court Justices whom could vote outside their traditional voting lines, but if you really look at the situation in the Spring and you talk to the attorneys preparing to argue this matter, I think it will become clear everyone is concentrating on convincing one person- Justice Anthony Kennedy. This is a daunting proposition for both him and our country.