This just in from Drudgereport:


Mandate survives as a tax…

Chief Justice Roberts joins the left of the Court…

The Medicaid provision is limited but not invalidated…

‘Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it. ‘

The court reinforces that individuals can simply refuse to pay the tax and not comply with the mandate.

Chief Justice John Roberts actually joined the majority, with Kennedy dissenting. Basically, Roberts saved the legislation. Who would have anticipated that?

More from the AP:

The decision means the historic overhaul will continue to go into effect over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care. The ruling also handed Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. […]

The court found problems with the law’s expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states’ entire Medicaid allotment if they don’t take part in the law’s extension.

The first part we knew, but this piece about Medicaid is interesting because it seems to suggest that this fight will continue at the state level over the expansion provision.

Still, this can only be seen as a massive, unlikely win for the Obama administration.

  • Tillyosu

    Still, this can only be seen as a massive, unlikely win for the Obama administration.

    Eh, I’m not so sure that’s true. First, regardless of what the Supreme Court says, the law remains deeply unpopular, with a majority of Americans favoring repeal. What is Obama going to do? Boast about passing an unpopular, though constitutional law until November? I doubt he will want to talk about it very much.

    Second, uhhh, remember the Tea Party? Yea, that group that organized in response to the health care debate, and delivered the House to the Republicans two years ago? I doubt they’ve gone away, and this decision will only energize them. I know of several people who, within MINUTES of the release of this decision, emailed the Romney campaign to volunteer. And I’m from Ohio.

    Third, the only way that the Individual Mandate survived was as a tax. It did not expand Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, which is what I think conservatives really cared about. I like this quote from SCOTUSBLOG:

    The rejection of the Commerce Clause and Nec. and Proper Clause should be understood as a major blow to Congress’s authority to pass social welfare laws. Using the tax code — especially in the current political environment — to promote social welfare is going to be a very chancy proposition.

    So if it really is a tax, then “Obama and the Democrats lied to the country, in order to pass the largest tax increase in U.S. history.” Right or wrong, that’s going to be the Republican talking point until November.

    It just seems to me that this might be a Phyrric Victory for Obama.

  • Tully

    Indeed, Tillyosu. We’re going to be seeing ads with Obama arguing that the mandate isn’t a tax over and over and over again. Nor does classifying it as a tax remove it from future litigation — it means it cannot be tested by the courts under tax arguments until it’s actually in force, which would be 2015.

    Guaranteed that with the unpopularity of the bill that it will be floor fodder for endless votes pushing Democrats into supporting it as a tax, potentially the largest middle-class tax increase in history. Our national tax on breathing.

    The portion of the ruling that says the feds cannot coerce the states into expanding Medicaid is also a budget-killer for the ACA. This is hardly a massive win for Obama and the Democrats in Congress — it throws the whole mess back into play for the elections and it’s gonna get a lot uglier. Well, we can always hope that the brouhaha produces a better approach.

  • Tully

    And the tax litigation arguments begin … the rightist legal eagles are already noting that the mandate originated in the Senate bill, which is what was passed and litigated, and not in the House bill, which was abandoned in favor of the Senate bill. But per the Constitution all taxes must originate in the House. So if it’s a tax and is still standing in 2014-15, we can expect litigation on that point.

    It’s gonna be a long election season.

  • Rob

    I don’t understand why it is so unpopular. Maybe I don’t understand the bill, but it seems for me to be a help.

    1. My wife had cancer (in remission should be no problem from here on), but when we tried to switch plans we were denied because of a pre-existing condition. So we have to stay with our current provider which has raised our rates something like 20% each year. But if we loose our health care, no one will take us with a pre-existing condition.

    2. My daughter is just out of high school living with us and working at a grocery store. She gets no health care and it is very expensive to get it when you are not part of a group. Now we can add her on to our plan, although I think it is 200/mo.

    Who exactly are the people, and what is there reason for wanting to screw people with a pre-existing condition?

  • Tully

    And it gets more interesting on the parliamentary front. Revenue items are apparently not subject to filibuster, only to simple majority vote. SCOTUS defining the mandate as a tax makes it a revenue item. And here I was stocking up on popcorn for the periodic position-reversal circus where the Senate Dems who were so adamant about the evils of the 60-vote filibuster rule (when they had a majority but less than 60 votes) suddenly find the filibuster to be a time-honored and sacred tradition of Senate rules (if the Republicans gain that same under-60 majority in November).

    Of course that will happen anyway in that electoral circumstance, it just won’t affect that particular issue. But at that point, without ever once having changed my position on the filibuster in over three decades of paying attention, I will suddenly be in full and complete support of the Democrat position on the filibuster, after several years of being in complete opposition to it. Same thing happened last decade, of course. To partisans, the filibuster is only evil when they’re in the majority. Nice not to be a partisan. It minimizes the dizziness.

  • mdgeorge

    We’re in this weird state where “Obama Care” is very unpopular, but the individual provisions are quite popular. The exception is the individual mandate, but I expect that once the everyone is talking about it as the “freeloader tax” (which is exactly what it is, if you want to call it a tax) people will start changing their minds about that too.

    I suspect that we’ve arrived here because Obama has been focused on governing rather than messaging. Once he starts campaigning (and especially during debates), Obama will have no trouble whatsoever in helping people realize what is actually in the law. He’s a fantastic strategist and a great orator. More people will be paying more attention at that point, and we’ll start seeing things more through the lens of reasonable people and less through the ideologically extreme lenses. If that is the case, then the popularity of the individual components will outweigh the unpopularity of the distorted misrepresentations that are currently floating around, and the ACA will be a boon to Obama.

    Anyway, that’s my reading, and why I see this both as a policy victory and as a boon to Obama.

  • khaki

    And so for those who thought the tax vs. penalty debate would trip up the Obama camp, look who’s tripped up. Hysterical.

  • Rob said, “We’re in this weird state where “Obama Care” is very unpopular, but the individual provisions are quite popular.”

    My state of Missouri also probably falls into that category. Perhaps a few Missourians will change their minds after Blue Cross and several other health insurers sent out rebate checks to policy holders (including me!) because they had violated ACA’s mandate that 80 percent of premiums go toward medical care.

  • I love watching the right wing throw Roberts under the bus. It only takes one false step with these folks and your an enemy. …which is honestly a large chunk of what’s wrong with their politics to begin with.

  • Tully

    SOME of the individual provisions are quite popular. Others, not even remotely so. Such as the medical-device tax. Or the mandate.

    As I’ve said before, everyone loves garden-fresh sliced tomatoes. But no matter how many of them you put on a s*** sandwich, it’s still a s*** sandwich.

  • TerenceC

    The American people have been forced to eat alot of shit-sandwiches in the last 10 years. This is the first sandwich that could help all of the people though. Consider it tantamount to being ordered to eat your vegetables. You know you’ll hate it, but you also know the benefits far out weigh the taste!

  • cranky critter

    That’s the thing with immediate surface appeal, Terence. If it seems delicious at a glance and you gobble it up without finding out what’s in it, it can make you sick later. But it’s too late, you already ate it. All you can do is suffer and hope it doesn’t kill you.

    I don’t find many people familiar with all the contents of the sandwich who thought eating it was a good idea. When it ends up not saving money because Congress can’t stick to the medicare reimbursement cuts it promised as the basis for claims of saving money, remember this conversation.

  • Tully

    And don’t forget those Medicare cuts before the election. Everytime you hear the perpetual Dem claim that the GOP is going to cut Medicare, remember that the Dems already cut it by $500 billion.

    Of course no one expects those cuts to actually stand (if they do, there will be precious few doctors willing to see Medicare patients at all) but without them OC falls flat financially. As it also does without the many embedded taxes on things like medical devices.