So it’s day one after The Decision. And the political fallout has yet to be seen. When I first heard about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (aka the health care act, or Obamacare), I’ll admit that my first reaction was one of giddiness and glee. I totally thrust my fist into the air, and with the kind of satisfaction that can only come from a mixture of relief and schadenfraude, I thought to myself, 'na na na nah boo boo, stick your head in doo doo', which, I’ll freely acknowledge, was not the most mature reaction I could have had.
But now it’s 24 hours later, and I can analyze the health care decision a little more dispassionately. First, this, no matter how you look at it, is a huge win for Obama’s administration. Everyone (including me) had given up any hope of health care being upheld by the Supreme Court. Obama’s signature piece of legislation withstanding juducial scrutiny is, as Joe Biden put it, a pretty BFD. When more and people understand the provisions of the law, and the way that they will be benefit, it will only become more popular, which is exactly what the Republicans fear.
For the Republicans, well, one of their biggest talking points was taken away from them. They can no longer accurately refer to Obama’s legislation as “unconstitutional.” However, I see that Fox and company already have collected their talking points together, and are referring to the legislation as “the biggest tax increase in history.” Right now, it it seems rather listless and perfunctory as they are doing it, but I think they could make some sort of rallying cry, and marshal together some genuine anger behind it, if they are clever. It seems presently, they are still a little stunned by the “betrayal” of Roberts to get together a coherent message that has emotional resonance. And poor Romney is in a bind. How can he believably rail against a piece of legislation which was based off his own signature piece of legislation? In a different world he would be allowed to crow about this.
As for Roberts and the rest of the Supreme Court, I think this ends up being a win for them. Roberts managed to avoid overturning almost a century of precedent, for what seemed like bald political gain. Since it wasn’t split down the usual conservatives v. liberals + Kennedy divide, one of the common talking points about the political division in the Supreme Court could not be used this time around. The Supreme Court comes out of this whole mess relatively unscathed. However, the Medicaid expansion part of the decision, and it’s implications, I’m not sure was thought through quite enough. Among other things, can states now start tinkering with their drinking age? Wasn’t that tied to federal highway funding at one point in time? What about No Child Left Behind?