Bench Memos

Today’s Obamacare Rulings

My bottom-line: Today’s ruling makes it all the more imperative that the American people elect a president and Congress this November who will work together to repeal Obamacare and to enact a sound health-reform plan, one that will establish insurance protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, slow the pace of rising costs, and cover the uninsured—all without coercive mandates or unaffordable federal spending commitments.

Obamacare opinions here: 

1. Is the suit barred by the Anti-Injunction Act? No (Slip op. at 11-15). Penalty not a tax for purposes of AIA.

2. Does the individual mandate exceed Congress’s Commerce Clause power? Mandate provision survives as a tax (for those who refuse to comply with the mandate). Slip op. at 31-45. Victory for Obama administration. (So much for my reading of the tea leaves.) Chief joins left of Court. 5-4.

Apparently Court majority holds that mandate does or would violate Commerce Clause, but taxing power provides alternative ground for sustaining it.

Chief: The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. Congress can’t use Commerce Clause to regulate individuals precisely b/c they are doing nothing. Slip op. at 16-27. Under fed gov’s theory, Congress could order everyone to buy vegetables.

Kennedy reading dissent (on taxing power grounds, I gather). Would invalidate entire Act.

3. If yes on 2, how much of Obamacare is nonseverable from the mandate and therefore falls as well? [No need to reach this Q] Four-justice dissent would invalidate entire Act.

4. Does Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion unconstitutionally coerce the states? Medicaid provision limited but not invalidated (per SCOTUSblog). Power to terminate state funds is narrowly read. Would be unconstitutional for feds to withhold existing Medicaid funds for state non-compliance with expansion provisions.

Chief joined by Breyer and Kagan on this holding. Ginsburg and Sotomayor disagree, but provide Chief majority for narrow remedy.

Other news: In Alvarez, plurality opinion by Kennedy invalidating Stolen Valor Act. 6-3, with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in dissent. Other pending case was dismissed.


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