Today the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, which means that what was probably the signature domestic policy priority of the Obama administration will remain in law unless it is changed or repealed by Congress in the future. I’m not a lawyer, or a speed reader, so I won’t comment on the full decision of the Court. But I will share a few quick reactions.
SCOTUS, as it has become fashionable to call the Supreme Court of the United States, is one remarkable institution, fully willing and capable of issuing rulings that surprise even the wisest of constitutional scholars and other pundits. In this case the big surprise was the role of Chief Justice Roberts, who sided with the majority and wrote the main opinion defending the “individual mandate” as a tax allowable by the constitution. Justice Roberts may have longer-term constitutional or political goals, but on the surface his decision may put him in the category of Chief Justices who surprised – and probably annoyed – the Presidents who appointed them. I’m thinking here of Earl Warren, for example, and his role in the landmark Brown v Board of Education case that ended the legality of “separate but equal.” That case had such a huge impact on our national consciousness about the historical stain of discrimination, and set us on a path (which we are still on) to correct social and historical inequities in the provision of education for all children.