Majority Report

06.30.12

9 Best Reads on Obamacare Ruling

The verdicts came in quickly from advocates and opponents of the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a look at the most astute commentaries about the Supreme Court’s decision.

The most anticipated judicial ruling in recent memory ended up one of the most surprising, leaving some liberals confused but elated, and some conservatives disappointed but emboldened. As the commentariat struggles to make sense of the ruling and its implications, The Daily Beast gathers the best takes.

Video screenshot

‘Cable news’s deplorable health care coverage.’

The Chief Justice’s Gambit,”
Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics


While first reads on the ruling called it an unambiguous victory for the president and the Democratic Party, Trende was one of the first and best to untangle the aspects of the decision that should give liberals pause. Namely, that the court upheld the individual mandate as a tax, while vastly limiting the power of the Commerce Clause to regulate economic inactivity. Roberts pulled a John Marshall-esque move, Trende argues, voting against the short-term interests of his party, but in line with the long-term interests of conservative economic ideology. “Though the right is grumbling,” he writes. “I suspect they won’t be doing so for long.”

The Election Is Now a Fight Over Obamacare,” 
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine


Chait, who had famously pledged to “lose his shit”  if the mandate were overturned, was a bit more circumspect Thursday. He agreed with Trende and others who pointed out that Roberts’s canny ruling wasn’t all good news. And his Daily Intel column on its political implications was dead-on: the decision doesn’t mean the law will survive, but it does mean that the fight over it will. Romney, he predicts, will have to stick to his absolute opposition to the bill, and run squarely on a repeal platform. “The 2012 elections are now primarily a fight over whether health insurance is a right or a privilege,” argues Chait, “which is to say, a fight for decency.”

Why Romney Won’t Repeal Obamacare,”
Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker


Here, The New Yorker’s chief political writer disagrees with Chait, arguing that repeal is a pipe dream. Without 60 votes in the Senate, even a potential President Romney would find it impossible to gut the emboldened Obamacare legislation. “There is literally nothing Republicans could offer Democrats in return for repealing the party’s greatest achievement since the Johnson administration,” writes Lizza, and there would be little political energy left to tackle the health-care issue anew. And if the law works as planned, there’s a strong chance that it will remain a permanent part of the American polity.

If Romney Wins, He Can Repeal Health Reform. And He Should,”
Ezra Klein, The Washington Post


Ezra Klein fires back with a counterintuitive take. A potential President Romney wouldn’t need 60 votes to repeal Obamacare, Klein argues. He could use the filibusterproof reconciliation process to cut all of its spending, and effectively disempower the legislation. Then, Klein makes a point that’s sure to bother a few of his Post stablemates: if Romney wins on the anti-ACA platform, he should repeal the bill, as “the American people will have spoken with unusual clarity.” Given recent polling, it’s a scenario that seems eminently possible.

The Media’s Obamacare Trainwreck,”
Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast


Our own Howard Kurtz has some tough words for the Fourth Estate, who blew it in the Obamacare predictions game, and even messed up the day of. He doesn’t merely take to task the commentators who hyped up the case against the bill, but also straight news accounts, laced with pessimism and misreadings. “This is the problem with so much media prognostication,” Kurtz argues, before quoting none other than Jeff Toobin. “I have to say it makes me a little nervous that I went out on a limb like that,” he said. Indeed.

A Justice in Chief,” 
Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times


A learned take from veteran Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse examines John Roberts’s deeply pragmatic call, and its place within the pantheon of chief justices, past and future. Roberts is “playing a long game,” says Greenhouse, with at least a “quarter-century” left in his term. Inspired by his mentor, Chief Justice Rehnquist, Roberts has chosen to take a more circuitous path to long-term success, “navigat[ing] the court through a perilous election-year landscape.” Roberts played it like a pro.

Law Before Politics,”
Elizabeth Wydra, SCOTUSBlog


A smart SCOTUSBlog contributor weighs in on the broader constitutional backdrop over the fight over the mandate: less a debate over originalism and activism than a thorough questioning of the Constitution’s power to redress national wrongs. “These justices were far more likely to have been motivated by the compelling constitutional text and history detailed by Justice Ginsburg than by pure political preference,” writes Wydra. She also points out a little-noticed fact: today is June 29, Solicitor General Don Verrilli’s birthday.

‘I think the “mandate is merely a tax” argument is a dodge,’ Krauthammer says bluntly.

Why Roberts Did It,” 
Charles Krauthammer, National Review


Krauthammer puts aside his obvious disappointment to remark upon the ruling’s implications for judicial review: namely, not good. But that is good for conservatives like Krauthammer. Arguing that “the judiciary’s arrogation of power has eroded the esteem,” the National Review stalwart illustrates how the Affordable Care Act ruling limits not only Commerce Clause power, but also the power of the court itself. “I think the ‘mandate is merely a tax’ argument is a dodge,” he says bluntly.

The Conservative Justice Who Saved the Day for Liberals,”
Tom McCarthy, The Guardian


“In one sense, John Roberts has saved the day for the left. The survival of the Democratic president's signature legislation could help his reelection bid. Universal health care is a cause close to the liberal heart, and the chief justice just passed up a chance to drive a stake through it. Americans on both sides of the partisan divide have reason to be glad for the renewed perception of the court as standing above (or at least apart from) politics, stopping a slide that began with Bush v. Gore.