It has been a few days now since the Supreme Court handed a bitter disappointment to conservatives by, among other things, finding that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional. This is the same individual mandate, bear in mind, the Mitt Romney approved when he was governor of Massachusetts and the right wing Heritage Foundation originally proposed. Well, never mind. The right in America is against anything Obama is for and they now believe, apparently, that they must win every battle that comes down the pike.
The so called conservatives are furious, saying that this proves they have to win the presidency to change the Court once and for all. That they have been saying this for about 40 or 50 years doesn’t seem to matter. This time, they mean it. Many have called Chief Justice Roberts a traitor, which, next time around, might make him even more inclined to vote the law rather than politics. There seems to be a large dose of childish petulance in the reaction from the right, as if they actually own the world and someone has taken away their plaything.
There are serious social, political and legal issues involved in the ACA, but, save for the right wing’s ultimate dreams coming true, there really isn’t that much concern that the United States is going to wind back to clock to 1920 and have a narrowly defined, hands off federal government. The national government has enough powers under previous Court rulings, and 200+ years of practice, to keep it busy for a long time. Besides, there aren’t any big, new national programs in the works after ACA, nor will there be until the matter of deficit spending and the national debt is addressed, along with Social Security and Medicare, one way or another. Whatever way the courts should rule, the federal government is out of the new, big programs business, except for defense, for the known future.
Whether you like “Obamacare” or not, I’ve got news for you: we are stuck with it. We are going to have to try to find ways to make it work, to prop up the best parts of the legislation and to amend other parts, step by step over the next ten to twenty years. The Romney pledge of “repeal and replace” essentially means nothing. Why? Because it is all but impossible for the Republicans to win a filibuster proof, 60 vote majority in the Senate and the same rules that the Republicans have used to shutdown the Democratic program would be turned against them in 2013 and beyond. What the Republicans have done to Obama, the Democrats can do to Romney.
The only way Romney and company could “repeal” would be if they could get Democrats to agree on the second half of the pledge, “replace”. The changes, in other words, would have to meet with approval from enough Democrats to get it through the Senate. This won’t happen. Or, it won’t happen unless the voters send a devastating, resounding message this year by strongly defeating Obama and many Democrats in the House and Senate. Taken all together this is unlikely. So, even if the Republicans win, the chances are that we will see a stalemate on many issues, just as we have the last two years.
There’s another reason the ACA won’t be repealed, as pointed out by others over the last six months to a year: what part are you going to take away from citizens, especially once they have the benefits and are enjoying them? A Republican program of repeal would have to be very careful, it would have to cut with a laser beam not an ax. Given the angry mood of the right, a measured or surgical approach seems unlikely. If they win this year, the harder the try to repeal the whole thing, the less likely they are to be successful.
So, like it, love it or hate it, we’ve got it. Of course, there is always the possibility of some sort of crisis being created (a depression or war) that makes it look like we have to repeal it, but it would have to be an earthshaking one in which Democrats and Republicans buy into a “solution”. Don’t hold your breath.
Of course, the Republicans have all sorts of tactics, developed in the last decade or so, designed to disrupt and prevent government from following the laws it has passed. They could try to defund “Obamacare”, particularly if there is a Republican in the White House to give them support. There’s a big problem with that tactic, however: millions of people would see an immediate, unkind response, such as losing health insurance. The blow back could knock their socks off and, then, cost them the next election. The delay, defund and destroy tactics have, for the most part, not gotten great attention in the major media., so the Republicans have been free to impose those tactics in Congress without much in the way of a penalty. That could change if millions are being affected.
As I have mentioned before, win or lose in November, Obama has his legacy. He was in charge when bin Laden was killed, when the Iraq pull out happened, when terrorists were attacked by dozens of drones and when the economy began the long pull out of the recession that bloomed under G.W. Bush. What more does he need? As things now stand, all political slant taken away, historians might judge him to have been one of the most effective one term presidents in American history. Certainly, he would like reelection and he might get it. If he does, my guess is that he would be more willing than now to consider improvements, not repeal, for his health care centerpiece.
Doug Terry, 7.2.12
Published: July 2, 2012
WASHINGTON The day after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court’s four-member liberal wing to uphold the health care overhaul law, he appeared before a conference of judges and lawyers in Pennsylvania. A questioner wanted to know whether he was “going to Disney World”.
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press
In a dissent, hints that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. might have shifted his stance.
Chief Justice Roberts said he had a better option: he was about to leave for Malta, where he would teach a two-week class on the history of the Supreme Court. “Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress”,€¯ he said on Friday, according to news reports. “It seemed like a good idea.”
The chief justice was correct to anticipate a level of fury unusual even in the wake of a blockbuster decision with vast political, practical and constitutional consequences. The criticism came from all sides. And it was directed not at the court as whole or even at the majority in the 5-to-4 decision. It was aimed squarely at him.
By Saturday, John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer, was suggesting in The Wall Street Journal that there had been a catastrophic vetting failure in 2005 when the administration was considering Chief Justice Roberts’s nomination.