Monday, June 25, 2012

The mandate is constitutional

Immediately following the oral arguments at the Supreme Court on health care reform, here is what President Obama said.
I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. That’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.
Bloomberg News demonstrated that he was right by surveying 21 constitutional law experts at the nations top 12 law schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years...

“The precedent makes this a very easy case,” said Christina Whitman, a University of Michigan law professor...

“There was certainly a lot of hostile questioning by the more conservative members of the court,” said Jesse Choper, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who described the court as likely to support the mandate. “It’s relatively straightforward -- if they adhere to existing doctrine, it seemed to me they’re likely to uphold it.”...

“When you take the fact of a high-profile, enormously controversial and politically salient case -- to have it decided by the narrowest majority with a party-line split looks very bad, it looks like the court is simply an arm of one political party,” University of Chicago Law Professor Dennis Hutchinson said in an interview...

“I continue to find it extremely unlikely that Justices Roberts and Kennedy will support a 5-4 decision that has such an insubstantial basis in 75 years of Supreme Court case law,” said Yale University Professor Bruce Ackerman, the only respondent who said the court is very likely to uphold the insurance-coverage requirement...

“It’s become just a very partisan battle cry on behalf of an argument which a few years ago was thought to be completely bogus,” Fried, who represented Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration at the Supreme Court as U.S. solicitor general from 1985 to 1989, said in a telephone interview. “For objective observers on all sides, this was thought to be a lousy argument and the only people who were making it were sort of the wing nuts.”
This reality prompted a couple of political writers to issue some pretty dire warnings if the Supreme Court finds the mandate unconstitutional. First of all, here's Kevin Drum.
If the court does overturn the mandate, it's going to be hard to know how to react. It's been more than 75 years since the Supreme Court overturned a piece of legislation as big as ACA, and I can't think of any example of the court overturning landmark legislation this big based on a principle as flimsy and manufactured as activity vs. inactivity...It would mean that the Supreme Court had officially entered an era where they were frankly willing to overturn liberal legislation just because they don't like it. Pile that on top of Bush v. Gore and Citizens United and you have a Supreme Court that's pretty explicitly chosen up sides in American electoral politics. This would be, in no uncertain terms, no longer business as usual.
And here's James Fallows.
Liberal democracies like ours depend on rules but also on norms -- on the assumption that you'll go so far, but no further, to advance your political ends. The norms imply some loyalty to the system as a whole that outweighs your immediate partisan interest. Not red states, nor blue states, but the United States of America. It was out of loyalty to the system that Al Gore stepped aside after Bush v. Gore. Norms have given the Supreme Court its unquestioned legitimacy. The Roberts majority is barreling ahead without regard for the norms, and it is taking the court's legitimacy with it.

1 comment:

  1. Fallows also said:
    "But when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we'd identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.**"

    Stated like this, it was very scary. Maybe our democracy wont survive!