U.S. Supreme Court today presented President Obama with an historic victory when it declared his health care reform constitutional.
The victory came with smallest possible majority, 5 votes to 4, and it came, highly sensationally, by the very conservative Chief Justice John Roberts upholding the law when he sided with the four liberal justices. Usually, the role as the swing vote is played by Justice Anthony Kennedy, but this time Kennedy went hard against health care law and joined Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas in the minority.
When the decision came down this morning, it quickly became clear that the major issue in the law– so-called individual mandate , i.e., that everyone must buy health insurance or pay a fine, was constitutional in that the mandate can be regarded as a kind of a tax, and Congress, of course, has the right to impose new taxes.
While the Democrats were jubilant, the Republicans, who were expecting a “no” from the Court, were deeply disappointed and the House Republican majority immediately declared to continue the fight to repeal the health care law. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court’s decision will affect the presidential election in November, although the ruling seems to a big boost for Obama, and the Democrats, in general. A ‘no’ in the Supreme Court would have meant an enormous loss of prestige for Obama from which it would have been very difficult to recover.
The Supreme Court ruling is also a victory for America, the only major Western democracy without universal health coverage for its citizens. Obama’s health care reform does not institute universal coverage, but 30 million more American will now have health insurance so it constitutes a major step towards health insurance and health care for all Americans.
Here is the Supreme Court ruling with the warning that it is long, almost 200 pages!