WASHINGTON – Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. joined the left of the Supreme Court in a dramatic 5-4 decision to uphold President Obama’s signature legislation, the far-reaching health-care law that its harshest critics decry as a wedge to transform the U.S. into a socialist state.
The court ruled that the controversial mandate, requiring citizens to buy health insurance, should be regarded as the imposition of a tax, which falls within the power of Congress.
The ruling, announced by Roberts, allows the law to proceed with its aim of covering more than 30 million Americans purportedly in need of health insurance.
The court’s four left-leaning justices – Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – sided with Roberts, who was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush.
Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
‘Dyspepsia’ in the court
Contrary to the court’s ruling, President Obama has insisted that the individual mandate is not a tax.
Outside the Supreme Court building, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, got behind a microphone to declare the decision exposes the president as a liar.
“The Supreme Court has made clear that when the president says something, you need to understand that he may be lying,” he said.
The congressman said the ruling shows Obama will do whatever is necessary to get a bill passed.
Rob Schenk, president of the Christian outreach ministry Faith and Action, was in the justices’ chamber when the opinion was announced.
He said he observed “dyspepsia” in the demeanor of the justices as the ruling was read.
Noting his familiarity with the court and the fact that he has met privately with all nine justices, he said there is “anything but harmony in that court room.”
“It is up to the American people now to change this law,” he said.
Schenk said Roberts’ opinion reflected the fact that it’s “not the job of this court to fix the problems of the people.”
“The chief justice just gave a challenge to all of us,” Schenk said. “Change this law. And that is what we will do as the American people.”
Repeal voting coming
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said after the ruling that the Republican-led House will vote on repealing the health care law soon after the July 4 recess.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare is a crushing blow to patients throughout the country,” Cantor said. “Obamacare has failed to keep the president’s basic promise of allowing those who like their health care to keep it, while increasing costs and reducing access to quality care for patients.”
In his opinion, Roberts said the mandate could not be upheld under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause but meets constitutional muster as a tax.
“The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part. The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” Roberts wrote. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”
The ruling, however, curbed the expansion of Medicaid to cover millions of low-income Americans. According to the decision, Washington cannot penalize states for not participating in the new program by withholding existing Medicaid funds.
Minority would have killed entire law
Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by three justices in dissent, wrote that the ruling gives Congress nearly unlimited authority to control the lives of Americans.
“Whatever may be the conceptual limits upon the Commerce Clause and upon the power to tax and spend, they cannot be such as will enable the Federal Government to regulate all private conduct and to compel the states to function as administrators of federal programs,” he wrote.
The dissenting justices said that in addition to the mandate, they would have struck down the rest of the law, because it could not be sustained without forcing Americans to buy insurance.
Demonstrators outside the court before the decision who spoke to WND reflected the magnitude of the case.
Maria Ciarrocchi of Students for Life of America called it “the biggest moment since Roe v. Wade.”
“We are out here to show that the next generation is more pro-life than the previous one,” she said.
Lindsey Gregory of Concern Women for America said she opposes Obamacare because she doesn’t believe that the government has the right to tell her what type of health care she should have.
Eric Philips of Young Americans for Liberty summed up the law.
“Obamacare will have the efficiency of the Postal Service, the sustainability of Social Security and the compassion of the IRS,” he said.
With reporting in Washington by Timothy Dionisopoulos