What the U.S. Supreme Court actually said about health care reform

Read the U.S. Supreme Court decision on health care reform for yourself here, but feel free to take a walk with me through these excerpts:

On the penalty vs. tax question:

The present challenge seeks to restrain the collection of the shared responsibility payment from those who do not comply with the individual mandate. But Congress did not intend the payment to be treated as a “tax” for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Affordable Care Act describes the payment as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label cannot control whether the payment is a tax for purposes of the Constitution, but it does determine the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act therefore does not bar this suit…..

Why the “commerce clause” flunked as a vehicle for health care:

The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce.” … The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court’s precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court’s cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe the power as reaching “activity.”

… 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 Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do.

The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.”

On why the high court free felt free to say a “penalty” is now “a tax:”

Chief Justice John Roberts concluded … that the individ¬ual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable.

The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product. Because “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” the question is whether it is “fairly possible” to interpret the mandate as imposing such a tax…

In answering that constitutional question, this Court follows a functional approach,“[d]isregarding the designation of the exaction, and viewing its substance and application.”

Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation…..

Behind the high court’s rejection of the federal demand that states expand Medicaid coverage – or else:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, joined by JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAGAN, concluded … that the Medicaid expansion violates the Constitution by threatening States with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion.

The Spending Clause grants Congress the power “to pay the Debts and provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States.” Congress may use this power to establish cooperative state-federal Spending Clause programs. The legitimacy of Spending Clause legislation, however, depends on whether a State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of such programs. “[T]he Constitution simply does not give Congress the authority to require the States to regulate.” When Congress threatens to terminate other grants as a means of pressuring the States to accept a Spending Clause program, the legislation runs counter to this Nation’s system of federalism.

The threatened loss of over 10 percent of a State’s overall budget is economic dragooning that leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion. The Government claims that the expansion is properly viewed as only a modification of the existing program, and that this modification is permissible because Congress reserved the “right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision” of Medicaid. But the expansion accomplishes a shift in kind, not merely degree. The original program was designed to cover medical services for particular categories of vulnerable individuals. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is transformed into a program to meet the health care needs of the entire non-elderly population with income below 133 percent of the poverty level.

Let the conversation begin.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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23 comments Add your comment

Toes The Line

June 28th, 2012
12:09 pm

I feel better already


June 28th, 2012
12:15 pm

As one congressman tweeted – “It’s CONSTITUTIONAL B****CHES!!!!!!!



June 28th, 2012
12:19 pm

Long term consequences are brutal as it opens up the ability of the federal govt to tax us for anything and everything, socialism here we come. But short/mid-term it’s actually a win as it guarantees Obama is booted in November and that conservatives take the Senate and keep the House. Obamacare will be repealed by end of Jan 2013, but the precedent is awful and our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves


June 28th, 2012
12:21 pm

ONE big victory for the American People and one HELL of a SLAP in the face to DEAL and his GOP cronies…smarts DON’T IT!…


June 28th, 2012
12:21 pm

Congratulations to liberals and socialists who have successfully nationalized health care.

We will now see over the next few years how rising premiums (except for special interest entities that gained waivers) and rationing of services play out.

Auntie Christ

June 28th, 2012
12:24 pm

The AHCA is constitutional, and GA’s house majority leader is making an effort at immigration reform. It sux to be a right wing reactionary on Thursday June 28, 2012. The only thing worse for them will be Wednesday November 7, 2012 after mittens makes his concession speech, and john boehner cries about having another lousy job as house minority leader.

Health Care Reform: "The Decision"

June 28th, 2012
12:25 pm

[...] What The US Supreme Court Really Said About Health Care Reform [...]

Auntie Christ

June 28th, 2012
12:28 pm

liberty says: it opens up the ability of the federal govt to tax us for anything and everything,

Guess what genius, the federal government has had that power since 1789. The Constitution isn’t just the name of a newspaper, it’s also the law of the land. Get someone to explain it to you.

Aaron Burr V Mexico

June 28th, 2012
12:30 pm

Aw….I came here explicitly to see TD weeping with despair…:(

And it is telling that Roberts got to write the majority opinion. The man can still do damage even when he knows his corporate insurance buddies are slobbering like dobermans to get this passed…

But any bad in the law is worth it to see contards squirm..go look at #Fullrepeal on Twitter! :D

Aaron Burr V Mexico

June 28th, 2012
12:32 pm

@Strawman – Thanks! I feel better. :D

Oh um….first dozen comments must be on topic….er…let’s see.

How about…You are wrong. And everything you believe in is false. :D


June 28th, 2012
12:33 pm

Gloat all you want, I don’t expect deep reasoned thought from liberals. However, mark my words and read what the chief justice said: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” -Chief Justice John Roberts

He just boxed Obama and the libs in, and the American people will choose in November and you won’t find me gloating, but instead prayerfully thankful for being rid of this travesty we’ve had to endure for 4 years and pray for quick healing to our country


June 28th, 2012
12:43 pm

Most liberals aren’t gloating, we are just very happy for the 20 or so MILLION people who will now be insured. For them this is a great day, and a renewed reason to vote in November.

I do find it ironic that the Republicans have been railing that we spent to much time debating and voting on Health Care and not jobs, but as soon as the ruling came out Cantor schedules a repeal vote, which he knows is going nowhere.


June 28th, 2012
12:53 pm

I guess this shoots down Romney’s claim that the President has wasted the last three years on something unconstitutional. Boehner, Cantor and McConnell are probably having heart palpitations. Fortunately for them, they have the best healthcare that money can buy. Too bad they don’t want the same for most Americans.


June 28th, 2012
1:11 pm

Anyone that doesn’t like obama care should cash in there Government bonds as a protest.

Aaron Burr V Mexico

June 28th, 2012
1:16 pm

(Raises hand) GLOATING! TOTALLY GLOATING! Anyone who delights so much in the suffering of others deserves to have delight their own misfortune.

And as for Roberts and a box? Yeah. I’m thinking that’s Briar Patch logic. But you keep believing there Liberty.


June 28th, 2012
1:27 pm

“The threatened loss of over 10 percent of a State’s share of federal highway funds is economic dragooning that leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce in raising their minimum drinking ages to 21.”

Funny, a slight alteration of the Chief’s ruling should provide sufficient justification to revisit South Dakota v. Dole.

Yes, I’m still bitter about 21.


June 28th, 2012
1:31 pm

Health Care Reform Law Decision Ruling See Full Text Document http://bit.ly/MYBO96

Aaron Burr V Mexico

June 28th, 2012
1:39 pm

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people.

“We don’t want empathy in our judges!”
“What’s the big deal about Valerie Plame?”
“What do you MEAN Bush is a war criminal. PROVE it!”
“There IS no Anthrogenic Climate Change.”
“Taxes are theft!”
“Alright if you want to get birth control from me, I want the pictures.”
“A hoodie makes you dangerous!”


Read a little closer

June 28th, 2012
3:05 pm

Stop freaking out and take the time to read the darn thing. There is something there for everyone. If you are wigging out on either side right now you need to settle down a little bit.

The Chief Justice has given conservatives a long-term victory by clearly stating there are limits to the Commerce Clause. This will restrain much of which you right wingers are all worked up about with your slippery slope arguments.

By validating Obamacare, all the Chief Justice said is that Congress (and the President) have the power to tax. This is nothing new for crying out loud. If he were to have said otherwise, where would we be?

Roberts was right to quote Ben Franklin. Death and Taxes… this is all we are assured of!

Aaron Burr V Mexico

June 28th, 2012
3:23 pm

Actually what I’m most happy about is that they are not saying that all commerce clause arguments post 1937 are unconstitutional.

They already threw out 100 years of precedent for Citizens Stupid, glad to know there is a tiny tiny tiny shred of the constitution left.

Aaron Burr V Mexico

June 28th, 2012
3:33 pm

Just a taxpayer

June 29th, 2012
8:05 am

Taxes. None of us want to pay them, but all of us want the government to pick up the tab for something. Americans (myself included) are a bunch of hypocrites.

The End is Near

June 29th, 2012
11:25 am

It will be interesting to hear ALL the considerations and reasons why CJ Roberts ruled the way he did—perhaps a memoir or deathbed confession someday. However the consequences are thus:
1. President Obama has successfully passed the largest tax increase in decades and has implemented a law that is not financially self-sustaining which means that hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars will be added to our national debt over the coming years. This will bring financial ruin to this country.
2. The ruling closes the door on using the Commerce clause to force actions on its citizens, but opens the door that Congress can tax the people into submission to do something. This is troubling as taxes are for revenue purposes only…not for controlling the behavior of the people and this broad interpretation of taxation means that Congress can tax you for not buying a particular car, or house or food or whatver.
3. All people may get insurance, but they may not get to see a doctor or the care they need in a timely fashion—economics dictate that if we add 30 million to the queue without increasing the number of doctors/care givers then there will longer wait times and rationed care for all (except Congress who are excluded from this law).
4. The only way to solve this problem and save the nation is to elect people who vow to repeal this awful law. Otherwise America as we once knew it, will cease to exist.