After months of nail-biting, speculation, and copious analysis – we finally have it. The Supreme Court of the United States has rendered its decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.
And the left, the feminists, the Obama Administration, and most of all – the country WON!
In a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts crossing the aisle to side with the liberal wing of the court, the Supreme Court decided that the vast majority of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was Constitutional and would move forward.
At the center of the controversy, the so-called “individual mandate,” or requirement that most Americans carry health insurance or face a financial penalty, received the most attention. Initially, CNN, FOX News, and even NPR had reported that the mandate had been declared unconstitutional.
Those that were doing the initial reporting just hadn’t listened long enough. The justices held that the Obama Administration couldn’t use the Commerce Clause to justify the individual mandate, but through Congress’ power to “lay and collect” taxes, the government could compel individuals to purchase insurance or face a “penalty,” which they decided functioned as a tax.
Other provisions were modified, like the Administration’s plan to withhold federal Medicare funding from states who refused to participate in the expansion of the program – the Court held that they couldn’t do that.
I’m really excited to get to write those words. I was filled with of dread in the days before the decision – Would my friends who needed Obamacare lose their coverage? Would this mean that our shitheads in Congress would be re-doing the entire thing?!. Fortunately, I get to sit here, sip my latte, and feel a little proud of my country today.
What I am most thankful for is the brilliant bipartisan maneuvering of Chief Justice Roberts. As a Bush appointee, progressives didn’t really expect much from Roberts. This week, though, he sided with the liberal wing of the court (Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsberg, and Breyer) to uphold the Affordable Care Act – that’s something that is really shining, especially in this current climate of nasty partisanship. And the fact that Bush appointed him.
I have to say, Justice Kennedy disappointed me today (and made me lose $5, as I figured he’d cross over into the majority, and nerds like me bet on this kind of stuff), but aside from Roberts, every other vote fell into line as expected, with one curiosity. When you look at the make up of the decision, not one woman justice voted to overturn the law.
That’s also something. I think Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsberg understood the implications of the Affordable Care Act and why it was important for American families. I don’t think they bought the arguments about the government now being able to force you to eat your broccoli.
Ultimately, what we saw was a refreshing break from all the nastiness and inaction in Washington. We saw a Chief Justice act like a judge, and not a politician. Whatever Chief Justice Roberts actually thinks about Obamacare, you couldn’t tell it from his opinion. He decided impartially.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing for the conservative wing of the court. Clarence Thomas, whose wife Ginny had been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act and made her living lobbying for the Tea Party (and against the Affordable Care Act), refused to recuse himself. Antonin Scalia’s head may possibly have exploded after hearing Chief Justice Roberts act like an adult and make a decision not based on his own political agenda (see Scalia’s bench statement from the Arizona v. US decision this week).
I heard someone on NPR this morning say that a decision that overturned the Affordable Care Act would have disillusioned progressives about the integrity of the court for at least a generation. And that’s the damn truth – every progressive I know that’s been watching this decision has been so pessimistic, so scared of what gutting the Act meant.
Today, we get to rest at ease. We get to have a little hope that the Supreme Court isn’t as polarized and partisan as our two houses of Congress. We get to have some faith in our President, and the system at large. However, this decision cannot placate us. With attacks on reproductive healthcare across the country, a Republican majority in the House, and an upcoming presidential election – we have to keep fighting.
If Mitt Romney is elected and the Congress stays at least 1/2 Republican, we can kiss this progress goodbye. This decision does not automatically result in Obama’s re-election. In fact, it might make it more difficult. This gives the Republicans a rallying cry, something to galvanize around. Even though Mitt Romney was sort of the architect of this plan, you’ll see him out probably talking about death panels next week.
We can’t let Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and a bunch of other white dudes undo the progress that we’ve seen in the last four years – the Affordable Care Act is just the most shining example of why that is true.
Check out the Washington Post’s really great interactive tool that shows what exactly the Affordable Care Act will do for you, then pour yourself a coffee and enjoy the rest of this historic day.
Amy is a social media strategist living in Dallas, Texas. She likes music, trashy TV, and ladybiz. tweet: @aemccarthy