Over the course of just a few hours, Republicans’ warm feelings toward the Chief Justice (see the top twelve Republican songs of praise for Roberts here) have evaporated.
Now, because Roberts was the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are suddenly criticizing Robert’s court as “activist.”
Here are the top negative reactions to Roberts’ decision today:
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA): “I don’t want to drink a beer with him today. I’m not calling for his impeachment, I’m just very very disappointed.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN): “I urge people to read the dissent that was read from the bench by Justice Kennedy and joined in by Justices Alito and also Scalia. Because that opinion said very clearly, this was an activist court that you saw today. What they did is not just uphold Obamacare, this Supreme Court re-wrote Obamacare in line with its own designs.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC): “The Supreme Court’s precedent in this case will far exceed health care. In short, government is now able to make you do anything by penalizing you with a tax. If future governments don’t like marriage it will be able to tax you if you want to get married. That goes both ways ? for traditional and gay marriage. If future governments want to limit the size of families it can tax second and third children. We know there are governments around the world who do this. The Supreme Court today has ruled we are just like them.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA):
With #Obamacare ruling, I feel like I just lost two great friends: America and Justice Roberts.
— Jack Kingston (@JackKingston) June 28, 2012
Rep. Louie Gomert (R-TX): ?I?m sorry he?s become so cynical. …He expects the president of the United States to lie to him, and to lie to America when [Obama] said ? and he had it said on his behalf repeatedly ? this was not a tax. For Justice Roberts to say, of course it?s a tax, he makes very clearly that he believes the president is a liar and it?s a sad day for America.?
Tell Congress that you stand with Obamacare by adding your name here.
In 2008, the United States had an election, and the American people overwhelmingly elected a president and a Congress who believe it is a moral abomination that, in the wealthiest, most powerful nation that ever existed, tens of thousands of Americans die every day because they cannot afford lifesaving treatment. Today’s decision upholding nearly all of the Affordable Care Act reaffirms that the American people’s decision matters. In Chief Justice Roberts’ words,
Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation?s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.
Yet, while today’s decision is fundamentally a reminder that the United States is a democracy, it also complicates matters quite a bit. For reasons that will be explained in a subsequent post, the opinion butchers an understanding of two key constitutional provisions that prevailed in the very earliest days of the Republic. Perhaps most significantly, it also creates an unprecedented new limit on the federal government’s ability to partner with the states in order to solve national problem — and this limit could cost millions of low-income Americans their access to health care.
Under Medicaid, the feds offer funding to the states to enable them to provide health services to the poor. The states are free to take this money or to leave it on the table, but if they accept it they are required to comply with certain conditions. Nevertheless, the plaintiff states challenged Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to provide health care for all people earning up to 133 percent of the poverty line, claiming that the law somehow “coerces” states into taking this new money. Roberts’ opinion buys this argument, holding that, because the states must accept Obamacare’s new Medicaid funds in order to continue receiving old Medicaid funds, that constitutes unconstitutional coercion.
One piece of good news is that Roberts distinguished the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion from previous expansions enough that his opinion probably would not lead to those past expansions being retroactively struck down. Another is that the opinion does not invalidate the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion either. Instead, it says that conservative states are now free to take the new Medicaid funds or leave them without risking any of their old funds.
The upshot of this is that Rick Perry’s Texas can now decide that it would rather give the finger to Obamacare than provide health care to hundreds of thousands of its residents, even though the federal government will cover 90 percent or more of those costs. Doing so, of course, would be cruel; it would save Texas very little money; and it would probably be unpopular with many Texas voters. But Texas now has this opinion if it chooses.
In the long run, it is likely that Texas will eventually fall in line — just as every single state in the country eventually realized that the existing Medicaid program is a really good deal that they should agree to. While political fires are burning hot, however, many low income Texans (and Mississippians, and Oklahomans . . . ) are likely to suffer for it.
Right-wing media have responded to the Supreme Court's decision upholding the health care mandate -- the requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance or pay a fee -- by claiming that President Obama has instituted the "biggest tax increase in the history of the world" and a "massive, regressive tax on all Americans." In fact, the fee will only be applied to a small percentage of people who choose not to purchase health insurance.
USA Today: Supreme Court Ruled "Individual Mandate -- The Requirement That Most Americans Buy Health Insurance Or Pay A Fine -- Is Constitutional As A Tax." From USA Today:
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld President Obama's health care law in a complex opinion that gives the president a major election-year victory.
The historic 5-4 decision will affect the way Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced the decision that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.
A majority of the justices said that the individual mandate -- the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine -- is constitutional as a tax.
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," wrote Roberts. [USA Today, 6/28/12]
Fox's Todd Starnes: Supreme Court Ruling "Will Force A Massive New Tax On The American People." During the June 28 edition of his "Fox News and Commentary" radio segment, Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes claimed that the Supreme Court ruling "jeopardizes religious liberty" and "will force a massive new tax on the American people." [FoxNews.com, 6/28/12]
Rush Limbaugh: "What We Now Have Is The Biggest Tax Increase In The History Of The World." During the June 28 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said that, with the Supreme Court ruling, "what we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/28/12, via Media Matters]
Limbaugh: Individual Mandate Is A "Massive, Regressive Tax On All Americans." Limbaugh also said on his radio program that the individual mandate is a "massive, regressive tax on all Americans." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/28/12]
Jim Hoft: Obama "Now Owns Largest Tax Hike In US History." In a post on his Gateway Pundit blog headlined "FLASHBACK: Barack Obama Promises to Cut Taxes -- Now Owns Largest Tax Hike in US History," Jim Hoft wrote:
Today the Supreme Court ruled the Obamacare mandate was a tax.
Barack Obama now owns the largest tax in US history. Obamacare will cost over $1.76 trillion in ten years.
Take that, 99%ers! [Gateway Pundit, 6/28/12]
Urban Institute: Individual Mandate Would Not Affect 94 Percent Of Americans. A March 2012 report by the nonpartisan Urban Institute found that 94 percent of Americans "would not face a requirement to newly purchase insurance or pay a fine." From Urban Institute's report:
The "individual mandate" -- the requirement that individuals either have health insurance coverage or pay a fine -- is both the best known and the least popular component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That people know about the mandate -- and may even worry about it -- is not surprising, given both the heated political controversy and the constitutional challenge surrounding this provision of the law. What may be surprising, however, is that if the ACA were in effect today, 94 percent of the total population (93 percent of the nonelderly population) or 250.3 million people out of 268.8 million nonelderly people -- would not face a requirement to newly purchase insurance or pay a fine. [Urban Institute, March 2012]
CBO: 4 Million People Will Face Fine For Not Having Insurance In 2016. From an April 2010 Congressional Budget Office report:
Of the remaining 7 million to 8 million uninsured, some individuals will be granted exemptions from the penalty because of hardship, and others will be exempted from the mandate on the basis of their religious beliefs. Among the uninsured who do not obtain an exemption, many will vol-untarily report on their tax returns that they are uninsured and pay the amount owed. However, other individuals will try to avoid making payments. Therefore, the estimates presented here account for likely compliance rates, as well as the ability of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to administer and collect the penalty. After accounting for all of those factors, CBO and JCT estimate that about 4 million people will pay a penalty because they will be uninsured in 2016 (a figure that includes uninsured dependents who have the penalty paid on their behalf). [CBO, 4/30/12]
Besides essentially upholding the entire Affordable Care Act, the most important news coming out of the Supreme Court decision is that it limited how the federal government can implement the Medicaid expansion. The law would provide money for states to[...]
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I'm up for a grand transpartisan alliance to get rid of this guy! (Reuters)Oh my!
Furious conservative activists lashed out Thursday in the blogosphere at Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for siding with the left and upholding the individual mandate in ?Obamacare,? with some even calling for his impeachment.Bozell tells me: "People are already talking about the possibility that [Roberts] could be replaced as Chief Justice."
Unfortunately there's really no way to replace Roberts as chief justice except by either convincing him to resign/retire, or by impeaching him.
So to show that I'm not 100 percent partisan, 100 percent of the time, let me reach out in solidarity?
It was total bullshit what Chief Justice Roberts did to you. So I'm happy to join you in calling for his ouster, either voluntarily or via impeachment. Heck, I'll go out of my way to help you accomplish this laudable goal.
That's just how helpful I am.
While the Supreme Court did rule today that the Affordable Care Act is upheld, they took a significant bite out of a provision intended to extend not just health insurance, but actual health care with the Medicaid expansion.
Medicaid is a federal/state partnership to provide health care to low-income individuals. The states create their own programs within federal guidelines, and the federal government provides the bulk of the money. A good chunk of the spending is for long-term care in nursing homes for seniors. Because Medicaid is the most cost-effective health care delivery system in the nation, the Affordable Care Act relies largely on expanding it to extend coverage inexpensively. The law starts out very generously picking up 90 percent of the expansion costs at the federal level, with that funding commitment being reduced over time. States not complying with the expansion would risk losing big chunks of funding.
That, the Court ruled, is a problem.
The Court?s decision on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion is divided and complicated. The bottom line is that: (1) Congress acted constitutionally in offering states funds to expand coverage to millions of new individuals; (2) So states can agree to expand coverage in exchange for those new funds; (3) If the state accepts the expansion funds, it must obey by the new rules and expand coverage; (4) but a state can refuse to participate in the expansion without losing all of its Medicaid funds; instead the state will have the option of continue the its current, unexpanded plan as is.That means that those 26 states who brought the suit against the federal government can choose not to expand Medicaid coverage to their citizens (though with the generous offer from the federal government, they'd be shooting themselves in the foot not to). It will mean fewer people with access to care, and potentially and ironically, more people subject to the individual mandate. How that will pan out is not yet clear, and what this new restriction on Congress's spending power vis-a-vis the states means constitutionally, I'll leave to the lawyers. But it might not bode well.
But if the Senate GOP's talking points about tax deductions for health insurance, health savings accounts, ending bans on pre-existing conditions, allowing insurance across state lines and draconian limits on malpractice awards sound familiar, they should. After all, during the Republicans' successful effort to smother "Hillarycare" in 1994, GOP strategist Bill Kristol authored an almost identical plan. And as it turns out, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney and almost every other leading Republican have been regurgitating the same tired sound bites ever since.
"Don't have health care? Not my problem."
(Joshua Lott/Reuters)Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on Mitt Romney's backwards-looking statement on the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare:
Mitt Romney had an opportunity to rise to the occasion today and tell the American people specifically how he would move the nation forward on health care and ensure people get the care they need. Yet, once again, he squandered that opportunity. Instead of explaining how he would ensure costs don?t go up and health benefits are protected, Romney promised to repeal the President?s health reform law and take America back to the same old political battles of the past. He is completely unmoved by what that would do to millions of middle-class families, women, seniors and young Americans who are today benefiting from the law. Romney?s promise to repeal the law would give insurance companies free rein to exploit Americans through the worst industry abuses, strip 86 million Americans of often life-saving preventive care, cost 3.1 million young Americans of their coverage by kicking them off their parents? plans, allow insurance companies to discriminate against kids with preexisting conditions, and increase prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare.And not only was Romney backwards-looking, House Republicans are still dwelling in the past, announcing that they will hold yet another Obamacare repeal vote on July 11. They just can't move on.
Just six years ago, before Mitt Romney decided to run for president, he passed a law in Massachusetts that achieved universal coverage for the citizens of that state through an individual mandate and tax penalty. That law became the model for the President?s health reform law. Now, as he is running for president, Romney has run away from his accomplishment in Massachusetts, callously promising to repeal national reform and ?kill it dead.? He owes the American people a clear, non-parsed explanation of why he believes his decisions in Massachusetts are wrong for the country, and exactly what he would do to help the American people get the health care they need.
Justice William H. Rehnquist, second from left, in June 1981 with his clerks from the 1980-81 term. John Roberts is on the right. (Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)Maybe John Roberts meant it:
I have told people, when pressed, that I prefer to be known as a modest judge. And, to me, that means some of the things that you talked about in those other labels. It means an appreciation that the role of the judge is limited; the judge is to decide the cases before them; they're not to legislate; they're not to execute the laws....Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, challenging the landmark Miranda decision was much in vogue in conservative legal circles, based on an obscure Congressional statute passed two years thereafter which ostensibly overturned it, but which Justice Departments both Republican and Democratic had refused to enforce. The case was finally teed up to the Supreme Court in the 1999-2000 term, and it seemed clear that Chief Justice William Rehnquist was set to build off the success of the Lopez decision and roll back this key Warren Court precedent.
[Y]es, there will be times when either the executive branch or the legislative branch exceeds the limits of their powers under the Constitution or transgresses one of provisions of the Bill of Rights. Then it is emphatically the obligation of the courts to step up and say what the Constitution provides, and to strike down either unconstitutional legislation or unconstitutional executive action.
But the court has to appreciate that the reason they have that authority is because they are interpreting the law. They are not making policy.
And to the extent they go beyond their confined limits and make policy or execute the law, they lose their legitimacy. And I think that calls into question the authority they will need when it's necessary to act in the face of unconstitutional action.
Whether or not we would agree with Miranda?s reasoning and its resulting rule, were we addressing the issue in the first instance, the principles of stare decisis weigh heavily against overruling it now. While ? ?stare decisis is not an inexorable command,?? particularly when we are interpreting the Constitution, ?even in constitutional cases, the doctrine carries such persuasive force that we have always required a departure from precedent to be supported by some ?special justification.? ?Overturning Miranda was a conservative dream, but was it worth the cost of the Court's legitimacy? Chief Justice Rehnquist didn't think so. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote late in Rehnquist's life:
We do not think there is such justification for overruling Miranda. Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture. See Mitchell v. United States, 526 U.S. 314, 331?332 (1999) (Scalia, J., dissenting) (stating that the fact that a rule has found ? ?wide acceptance in the legal culture?? is ?adequate reason not to overrule? it). While we have overruled our precedents when subsequent cases have undermined their doctrinal underpinnings, we do not believe that this has happened to the Miranda decision.
[L]iberals have never understood how significantly and frequently Rehnquist departed from doctrinaire conservative ideology, and conservatives have failed to grasp that his tactical flexibility was more effective than the rigid purity of Scalia and Thomas. In truth, Rehnquist carefully staked out a limbo between the right and the left and showed that it was a very good place to be. With exceptional efficiency and amiability he led a Court that put the brakes on some of the excesses of the Earl Warren era while keeping pace with the sentiments of a majority of the country... As for judicial temperament, he was far more devoted to preserving tradition and majority rule than the generation of fire-breathing conservatives who followed him.John Roberts clerked for the Justice Rehnquist in the 1980-81 term, and today's ACA ruling is not the first that seems to have been very much influenced by Rehnquist's influence on him.
(Continue reading below the fold ...)
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