Lyle Denniston has covered the U.S. Supreme Court for more than half a century. As an eyewitness, he probably knows the institution and its history better than anyone.
So when he writes the following at Scotusblog, it’s worth paying attention:
Without exaggeration, the final ruling has the potential to be the most important declaration on how the Constitution divides up power between national and state governments since the New Deal days some three quarters of a century ago. Without exaggeration, it could be the most important pronouncement on the federal “safety net” since the Social Security Act was upheld by the Court in 1937. Without exaggeration, a decision to strike down all or part of the new health law could be the most severe rebuff of Congress’s power over the national economy since the Sick Chicken Case in 1935. And, without exaggeration, a nullification of the Act in whole or in part could be the most devastating blow to presidential power and prestige since the Steel Seizure Case in 1952.
I don’t think that aspect of “Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services” has been fully appreciated: It’s not just about Obamacare, not by a long shot.
Given the case law and precedents, if the Supreme Court decides to overturn significant portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it will also be forced to overturn at least 70 years of its own jurisprudence on the Commerce Clause. The entire balance of power between the states and the federal government and the federal government and business would change, with repercussions that would echo for decades.
These are days in which the course of history and the course of the nation may be changed, and nobody knows that better than the nine justices on the court. If I had to bet, I’d bet that they steer away from making such a momentous change with such unpredictable consequences.
But these days, I wouldn’t bet a lot.
– Jay Bookman