Sure, the chief justice has preserved health-care coverage for millions of Americans. But he has made life harder for several dozen liberal pundits!
Damn you, John Roberts. Sure, by joining the court's four liberals in upholding President Obama's Affordable Care Act, you have preserved a law that will protect tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions. You have saved health coverage for millions of middle-class Americans. You have protected free mammograms for women on Medicare, retained the subsidy for seniors' prescription drugs, and allowed parents to carry their adult children on their health insurance until they're 26. You have validated—indeed, rescued—Obama's signature domestic achievement.
A couple waits overnight to attend a Remote Area Medical free clinic. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
So why do I damn the chief justice? Because it's all about me, isn't it? I was loaded for bear. I'd already drafted a bitter, bilious, bombastic broadside against the right-wing hacks on the Republican Court. (Oops, my side won, so they're the highly esteemed and completely independent Supreme Court.)
What am I to do now? Go back to explaining to people why forcing them to buy health insurance against their will is good for them? (It is, by the way, but that's no fun.) Return to playing defense and explaining that while Obama campaigned against an individual mandate and Republicans came up with the idea, it really is a progressive policy? Or retreat to the safe and sound sanctuary that everything you hate about Obamacare is based on Romneycare?
Romney promises to repeal Obamacare if he becomes President.
I think the last is my best option. So to all my right-wing buddies who feel betrayed by the court, keep this in mind: all Chief Justice Roberts did was uphold a policy conceived by the Heritage Foundation, midwifed by Newt Gingrich, raised by Mitt Romney, and then adopted in adulthood by Barack Obama.
So instead of going on Anderson Cooper tonight and thundering about the injustice of the justices, I will be reduced to mewing about the mandate. Better for Americans, to be sure. But tougher on me. Damn that Roberts. He outsmarted me again.
“I didn’t do it because it was good politics.”
President Obama said Thursday that the Supreme Court’s upholding of his signature piece of the legislation, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is a “victory for people all over this country.” Saying “I obviously didn’t do it because it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the country,” the president assured Americans that the new law means that nobody will lose his or her health insurance—and that insurance companies will not be able to bill you into bankruptcy. “Five years from now, 10 years from now, and 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to keep moving forward,” Obama said.
The chief justice’s health-care ruling has enraged conservatives today. But the decision will channel GOP anger back to the polls, where it belongs. By Peter Beinart.
It’s easy to see why liberals are relieved today: the most important progressive legislation of most of our lifetimes has survived. It’s easy to see why centrists are relieved: the Supreme Court’s legitimacy has survived. Centrists understand that it’s not a good thing for an ostensibly nonpartisan institution like the Supreme Court to be at war with one of America’s two major parties. John Roberts has made sure that didn’t happen, and as a result, the court’s legitimacy is no longer in free fall.
Demonstrators protest Thursday as they await a decision by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. (Saul Loeb, AFP / Getty Images)
Conservatives, by contrast, are livid. As with abortion, ostensibly conservative justices, appointed by ostensibly conservative presidents, have upheld policies that most conservatives hate. But take it from a liberal, thoughtful conservatives should be relieved too. For one thing, Roberts has proved that at least some conservatives really believed all that talk about judicial restraint. The conservative movement has been most successful when it balances its desire to repeal progressive change with a principled belief in the value of conserving things, even things right-wingers dislike. That’s what Dwight Eisenhower understood when he imposed fiscal discipline on Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman’s newly created welfare state rather than trying to repeal it. It’s what Ronald Reagan understood when he set a more traditional tone for the country rather than directly challenging the new freedoms of the 1960s. In the Tea Party era, the GOP has become too revolutionary and insufficiently conservative. It has lost the modesty that true conservatism should have at its core. From the bench, Roberts has shown how to restore that balance.
Romney promises to repeal Obamacare if he becomes President.
Finally, Roberts has prevented conservatives from succumbing fully to the temptation that so badly damaged liberals in the 1960s and ’70s: the temptation to win in the courts what you can’t win at the polls. In the ’60s and ’70s, as the Democratic coalition crumbled, liberal activists increasingly turned to the courts to extend progressive change. In so doing, they prevented themselves from having to reckon with the reasons that so many voters were turning against their policies. Overreliance on the courts made liberalism more elitist. And it made the conservative backlash of the Nixon and Reagan eras more intense—because if there’s one thing Americans hate more than unpopular policies, it’s unpopular policies imposed upon them by unelected courts.
Now, because of Roberts, conservatives will have to defeat Obamacare the hard way: by defeating Barack Obama. If Mitt Romney wins this fall, and Republicans grow stronger in Congress, the GOP will be able to significantly undermine Obamacare legislatively. If, on the other hand, Obama wins despite a lousy economy and public ambivalence about his signature domestic achievement, Republicans will have to ask themselves hard questions about their unpopularity among the fastest-growing segments of the American electorate. In the long run, that will be good not only for American democracy, but for American conservatism. And one day, perhaps, the conservatives who today revile John Roberts will give him his due.
The chief justice proved that his court is more than an ideological rubber stamp, writes Robert Shrum.
My friend Laurence Tribe, the nation’s leading constitutional scholar who once had a student named John Roberts in his Harvard Law School class, had predicted the outcome.
Daniel Acker / Getty Images
In the face of the overwhelming consensus that the Supreme Court would strike down the individual mandate at the heart of health reform, Tribe has repeatedly said the issue was clear and the Court did not even need to reach the question of whether the mandate was a proper exercise of Congressional power over interstate commerce. Tribe said to me as late as yesterday that the Affordable Care Act offered people a choice: those who decided not to obtain health coverage have to pay a tax—which is plainly is a constitutional exercise of federal power.
Watch Obama congratulate the country and explain the changes that will occur.
The argument is both clear and compelling—and was the crux of the chief justice’s opinion. John Roberts may have forgotten the oath of office when he administered it to Barack Obama; he remembered his oath when he decided this case. Indeed maybe it is possible that Al Gore would have been president if Roberts had been chief justice in 2000. Yes, I know that he was part of the Bush legal team in Florida, but that is not the point. Given his politics, I am certain that Roberts would not have voted to pass health reform. But he did vote to uphold it; he did what a judge is supposed to do—follow the law, not his own politics.
The chief justice made the difference while Anthony Kennedy, who many had hoped might, instead joined the Three Horsemen of the Rightwing Apocalypse on the Court. One can disagree with many of Roberts’ choices—for example, his vote in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates for special interest money in campaigns. But he has now assured that the Roberts Court will be seen and remembered as more than an ideological rubber stamp.
The other lesson here? Don’t count Barack Obama out. He was supposedly doomed to fall to the inevitable Hillary Clinton just months before the Iowa caucuses. Health reform itself was doomed after the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts—just months before Ted Kennedy’s dream of health care as a right and not a privilege was passed into law after a century of struggle.
And, according to the common wisdom, Obama re-election prospects are troubled. My response after today: just wait until November.
The Court's ruling is far from ideal, but there are reasons to be cheerful
As I predicted, my day lilies are still blooming beautifully, I'm still married to the love of my life, and the Commissars do not seem to have started liquidating the kulaks yet.
Obviously, I would have preferred this decision to go the other way. I also would have preferred a decision which made sense, which this decision doesn't really seem to. Despite my general distates for this law, I thought the argument that Congress couldn't bully the states by threatening to take their Medicaid money away was nonsense, and yet there the Supreme Court goes, agreeing with them. Meanwhile, the Court has rewritten the mandate as a tax, even though everyone who passed it said it wasn't one. There's dim hope in the fact that they refused to expand the commerce clause—but only dim, because future expansions of the commerce clause are going to be decided more by the future composition of the court than by this ruling.
But much as I dislike it the general direction of the ruling was hardly unexpected, even if the actual outlines of the decision are pretty much what exactly no one was predicting. I'm not super surprised that they voted to uphold--though I suspect that Justice Roberts has ducked outrage from liberals only to now get just as much outrage from his own side. This is the political environment we now live in. The age when liberal academics could comfortably expect to see their dominance of the academy translate into a broad progressive consensus on the court are over. We'll be battling over the composition of the court for a long time—and if a liberal or conservative justice is forced to retire while the other party holds the presidency, I expect to see things get vicious indeed.
Meanwhile, let's look on the bright side. Some reasons to be cheerful:
1. Those of us who are skeptical of government power are no worse off, and arguably better off, than we were yesterday. It could have gone way worse.
2. Back in 2010, when the bill passed, I made some predictions about the effects of the bill. One of them (#5: a major funding source will be repealed, which arguably describes the Class Act) may already have come true. But that leaves seven others. Will infant mortality decline to the level of the Netherlands? Will mortality drop like a stone? Stay tuned to this space in 2014!
3. Some people, maybe including me, will be helped by the bill. Even if you think that this bill will, on net, make more people worse off, you should still be glad for the people who are being helped.
The chief justice’s image will forever be shaped by his decision to uphold Obamacare. Howard Kurtz on the Bush appointee who broke ranks with the right.
It was a moment of truth for John Roberts, a longtime pillar of the Washington legal establishment, a member of the ultra-posh Chevy Chase Club, and someone who acquaintances say cares deeply about how he is portrayed in the press.
Brendan Hoffman, The New York Times / Redux
By joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in upholding Obamacare on Thursday, Roberts stepped up to the challenge in a way that bitterly disappointed his conservative allies.
To his liberal detractors, the chief justice had seemed a lockstep vote in favor of conservative causes, more ideologue than arbiter. Had he led a Supreme Court majority in gutting President Obama’s health care law, Roberts’ standing as a jurist willing to thwart the will of Congress would have been carved in stone.
Instead, Roberts broke ranks with the likes of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on what is undoubtedly the most important ruling of his tenure so far—and the most politically explosive.
“This will define him,” Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who has repeatedly argued before the court, said before the ruling. The founder of the influential SCOTUSblog, Goldstein had viewed Roberts’ legacy as “presiding over the most conservative court in American history.”
Roberts is a deft political operator who fervently wants to be seen as respecting court precedent, even as he has led the way on such game-changing decisions as Citizens United, which opened the floodgates to special-interest money in presidential campaigns.
“To strike down a law of this size is a huge thing in modern history,” says Dahlia Lithwick, a legal analyst for Slate. “Roberts staked his own success on limiting 5-4 bickering and on unanimity, as well as judicial modesty. This case implicates each of those values, almost regardless of the outcome.”
President Obama to give comments later Thursday.
That was fast. House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s health-care law just means that Congress will have to work to repeal the legislation. “The president’s health-care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire,” Boehner said. The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House will vote the week of July 9 to overturn the legislation. Republicans are expected to use the decision as something of a rallying cry on the campaign trail, since Americans do not support the legislation overall—but a majority supports the parts of the law. Meanwhile, President Obama is scheduled to give his reaction to the ruling later Thursday. “We knew all along that the law was constitutional,” said one White House aide.
Says SCOTUS “killed” mandate.
The Chicago Tribune once wrote “Dewey Defeats Truman,” the New York Post claimed that Bush won the 2000 election before it was called, and now CNN and Fox News join the ranks: the two networks reported inaccurately that the Supreme Court “killed” part of President Obama’s health-care legislation. The individual mandate, one of the key parts of the legislation, was upheld as a tax, but CNN and Fox News reported that it had been ruled unconstitutional. Within minutes, the report was disputed, but screenshots of CNN and Fox News will allow the error to live on in infamy.
A major victory for the president stuns the capital
A sharply divided Supreme Court upheld the individual insurance mandate in President Obama’s health care law on Thursday, handing the White House a major victory on its major domestic achievement four months before the election.
With protestors gathered outside the court's marble halls, Chief Justice John Roberts revealed that he had joined the liberal wing in a 5-4 ruling that the federal government indeed has the power to impose a penalty on those who fail to buy insurance—through its taxing authority, not under the Interstate Commerce Clause, as the administration had argued.
It was a stunning moment because the media and political establishments had essentially concluded after oral arguments that the mandate was toast.
CBS announces the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare.
A defeat on that question would have been a stinging setback for a president who staked so much of his political capital on the intractable issue of health care reform but had already lost the debate in the court of public opinion.
In an address from the White House, Obama concentrated on selling the law’s benefits, from parents being able to cover their children under age 26 to some 30 million uninsured people being eligible to get coverage. He gave a major nod to the law’s unpopularity, saying, “It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics.”
The president credited the court with upholding the mandate, saying: “People who can afford health insurance should take responsibility to buy insurance.” And he took a not-so-veiled shot at his opponent, saying such a mandate had once been supported by “the Republican nominee for president.”
We’re going live! Join NewsBeast writers Michael Tomasky, Michelle Goldberg, Peter Boyer, and Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, along with The New York Times’s Rachel Swarns, as they discuss the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated ruling on President Obama's signature health-care law, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Cameras start rolling Thursday at 9:30 AM EST.
Kids. Sick people. Southerners. These are just a few of the people who could get the shaft if the Supreme Court axes the Affordable Care Act.
With the epochal Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act coming this week, pundits and prognosticators have been working themselves into a tizzy trying to figure out who would win and who would lose in each of the 492,503 (approximately) possible directions the Roberts Court could take in its ruling.
There’s a lot at stake, from the ability of young adults to cover their chronic medical conditions to the ability of insurance companies to screw over young adults trying to live with chronic medical conditions. Here, the people who might be most screwed if the ACA gets knocked down.
Lea Roth / Getty Images
Debt-Strangled Young 20-Somethings: By design, many provisions of the Affordable Care Act were not set to trigger until years after the law’s passage in March 2010. But one of the law’s biggest changes went into effect in late September of that year: all Americans could stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turned 26. If the law is overturned, it will be up to insurance companies whether to allow this continue, and they will be under no legal obligation to do so. Many could revert to their old practice of kicking kids off their parents’ insurance plans once they turn 19. The result, particularly for young adults with expensive health conditions, could be financially ruinous.
“I have to keep a close eye on things, which requires a lot of doctors’ visits and maintenance medicines,” Liz Wilson, a 25-year-old with chronic health problems, told CNNMoney. “Without health reform, I’d really have to ask myself what I’d do.” So if the ACA falls, members of this debt-laden group will have one more thing to worry about: the tens of thousands of dollars it could cost them if they fall down on the stage and break an ankle after accepting their diplomas.
People Who Are Bad at Paperwork: Don’t laugh. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many insurance companies were extremely trigger happy about rescinding coverage when their customers got sick. Like a persnickety English teacher, they would snatch away a sick patient’s insurance for even the slightest blunder in the application paperwork—if they thought it would save them money. As an example on the government’s pro-ACA website points out, a breast-cancer patient could have her coverage dropped for failing to mention having visited a shrink years ago. The ACA changed that by banning the practice in most circumstances. If it’s overturned, we’ll have to go back to watching what we say.
Southerners: Many consumer-protection provisions of the ACA have already been passed at the state level, and will stay in place even if the act is overturned. But a map from the Progressive States Network shows that the degree of protection varies hugely from state to state. If you live in the right state, there are laws protecting you from the whims of your insurer; if you don’t, they can bat you around like a piñata. It’s the South, as well as a good chunk of the Midwest, where health-insurance consumers appear to enjoy the fewest protections. In the absence of the ACA, the fallout could hit Texans much harder than New Englanders.
Tomas Rodriguez / Corbis
The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare—and the individual mandate—on Thursday. It’s actually a pretty big deal. Here’s why.
What’s happened at the Supreme Court on Thursday?
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to uphold President Obama's signature piece of legislation, including the controversial individual mandate. The individual mandate survived as a tax.
Before we get to what those questions are, let’s back up a little. What, exactly, is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, anyway?
The PPACA, also known as Obamacare, is President Obama’s signature policy that was passed by a majority Democratic Congress in 2010. At around 2,700 pages with some 450 provisions—it is one dense piece of legislation and, as such, extremely confusing and intimidating to tackle. Bottom line, though, is that it’s intended to get more Americans insured, and make insurance more affordable. A lot of people (mostly Democrats) like it well enough, others (mostly Republicans) kind of hate it, and some (mostly average Americans) just don’t know what to think.
A protester outside the Supreme Court on Monday. (Evan Vucci / AP Photo)
If it was already passed in 2010, why are we still debating it?
Though the law passed through Congress, not everyone was excited about it. So 26 states, led by Florida, filed a series of appeals against the law to the Supreme Court challenging, specifically, “the individual mandate,” which threatens a financial penalty for most citizens who do not purchase health insurance by 2014. For a more detailed explanation of how Obamacare landed on the Supreme Court steps, click through The Washington Post’s interactive guide to states that have already determined the law unconstitutional.
Can the federal government actually require people to buy insurance?
37 percent say unconstitutional in new poll.
With the Supreme Court set to rule on the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll spells bad news for the administration: 37 percent of Americans say they would be "pleased" with the law ruled unconstitutional as compared to 22 percent who would mourn its loss. As for the individual mandate, 55 percent say "it wouldn't make a difference" to their lives if the provision is dumped. For all the recent politicking over the health care law and its legal challenge, views among American voters on the reform package have barely changed. The poll shows that 35 percent of respondents support the Affordable Care Act, while 41 percent oppose it—around the same proportions as when Obama signed the bill in March 2010.
As America awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare, Clinton spells out the dire consequences of the law being struck down—and talks about the prospects for Hillary being president and Chelsea giving him a grandchild.
Bill Clinton is counting backward these days. At 65, he says, he has already lived longer than any of his male forebears going back three generations. He has attempted to use this argument with his daughter, he says, hoping to induce Chelsea into getting on the grandbaby express train. Chelsea gives her father an equally persuasive counterargument: if she waits until she’s 50 to produce an heir, her father will just have to live until he’s 83.
Bill Clinton gives a speech at the Cannes Lions international advertising festival in France on Thursday. (Lionel Cironneau / AP Photo)
“The chances of having a grandchild stand in inverse proportion to how much you talk about it,” Bill Clinton says.
A group of us heard this family vignette from the former president at a Park Avenue fundraiser this week for Rep. Louise Slaughter. The upstate New York congresswoman, who broke her femur in April, won’t be able to get out of a wheelchair until fall to campaign in a tough fight following redistricting. Bill Clinton came to her rescue.
Clinton is perceptibly shorter now, and much leaner, but the charisma is all the more concentrated. The shrewdest mind to occupy the Oval Office in our lifetime still has one of the most impressive hard drives around. What Clinton talks about nonstop these days is the presidential election. And given his new perspective as a bona fide senior, you could be excused for thinking he is running for reelection.
The key question of the presidential election, he says, is, which of these candidates is likely to bring America back into shared prosperity? And as the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, the former president gave his take on what an adverse ruling would mean.
In the 51 years since President Kennedy took the oath of office, Republicans have had 28 years in the White house; Democrats have had 23. In the same half century, the economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs—42 million of them under the Democrats, 24 million under the Republicans. “No one states these facts,” Clinton asserts.
“When President Obama took office, it was four months after we suffered the biggest financial crash since the Great Depression,” he says. “The depth of it continued to persist through the first six or seven months of the president’s term.
The president’s key Catholic ally proposes a plan that would let the Church decide what is legitimate ministry, earning exemption from health-care rules. A deal would clear the way for the bishops to end their battle with Obama—and boost his reelection effort.
If Obamacare survives the Supreme Court, whole or only partly denuded, one of the several headaches still awaiting the administration is its vexing election-year dispute with the Catholic Church over implementation of the health plan.
Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo
As if to remind President Obama of that fact, the Catholic bishops on Thursday began their latest national protest effort, Fortnight for Freedom, with a Mass at the Baltimore Basilica (the nation’s oldest cathedral), to be followed by two weeks of prayer and more temporal activity, such as lobbying Congress.
The bishops began their fortnight activities on Thursday because it was the feast day of two of the church’s great political martyrs—Thomas More, who was beheaded in 1535 for denying Henry VIII’s sovereignty over the church, and John Fisher, who came to a like end for bucking that same royal personage. The symbolic casting of Barack Obama as Henry VIII reflects the dire terms in which church leaders have cast the battle with the White House, which New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has accused of “strangling the Catholic Church.”
But the administration has been given a way out of its impasse with the church, by means of a compromise suggested by a nun who has been the White House’s most important Catholic ally in the health-care struggle. In a five-page letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, urged a potential solution that might well cause the bishops to back off. Her proposal: allow the church, rather than the government, to decide what activity constitutes legitimate ministry, thus earning exemption from health-care rules that the church finds morally objectionable.
The administration, hesitant about the bishops’ willingness to compromise, has not indicated whether it will endorse Keehan’s proposal. But, critically, the Keehan fix would remove the element of Obamacare that the bishops say would force a violation of Catholic conscience.
At issue is the mandate, announced by HHS in January, requiring employers to provide workers with health services, including some services the Church deems objectionable, such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Exemptions were granted to actual houses of worship, but not to church-based entities such as health facilities, schools, and charities. The rule was widely seen as an unforced policy error, and was roundly criticized by Catholics across the political spectrum. This was partly because, to liberal Catholics, service to the poor is a central requirement of the faith, at least as important as the protection of unborn life.
The administration quickly recognized its misstep, and offered what it called “an accommodation” to the church, shifting the responsibility for providing contraceptive services from employers to their insurers. This satisfied the objections of many Catholics, including Sister Carol. But the bishops dug in.
After months of waiting, Obamacare has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Daily Beast reviews the legal circus.
An insider’s guide to the Supreme Court’s dramatic ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. By Jesse Wegman.
Cable TV anchors might have made serious gaffes reporting the wrong healthcare decision, but not everyone was scratching their heads. Newsweek & The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove reports from the Supreme Court that the Fox technical crew were ready—after setting up their equipment in the middle of lawn sprinklers.
It’s the end of liberty! It’s the beginning of freedom! Either way you slice it, the court’s ruling on Thursday was momentous.
Birth control without copays starts in August.
Minutes after the Supreme Court announced that Obamacare was upheld, we asked our Facebook readers to give their reactions in one word. Here are the results.
Fox News’s reaction to SCOTUS’s ruling took a notably somber tone. Watch its anchors’ descent into gloom.
You know that kid in your class who always talks but never actually does the reading? Well, today, that was CNN and Fox News. In a rush to beat their opponents to report the Supreme Court’s health care decision, both cable networks broadcast the wrong information—and then had to awkwardly retract their statements.
Scalia and Ginsburg go to the opera together and more Supreme Court trivia.