The Supreme Court’s consideration of President Obama’s health care legislation last week has left supporters rattled to say the least.
Although the fate of the landmark legislation remains uncertain – likely until June – legal scholars and political analysts observe that a majority of the justices seem inclined to strike down the individual mandate, the law’s key provision requiring that Americans purchase health insurance or pay a penalty fine.
However, it is important to note that the justices seem divided on the implications on the rest of the law, should the individual mandate be stricken down. If the law is found unconstitutional, the court will have effectively put an end to the Obama Administration’s landmark healthcare legislation in addition to rendering judgment on the leadership of the president himself.
Still, some Democrats remain hopeful. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it’s possible that such a ruling could help Obama’s reelection campaign by galvanizing Democratic voters. Others hope it will rally voters passionate about healthcare reform by projecting the Supreme Court as a partisan body.
Meanwhile, political campaigns, particularly presidential campaigns, are preparing for every possibility, with the ruling likely to set the political atmosphere for the remainder of the campaign season. Some skeptics say Mitt Romney and his campaign particularly will confront a tricky political obstacle, regardless of the outcome, given his role in enacting a healthcare law in Massachusetts built around the same mandate principle.
The White House has yet to comment on the court’s deliberations, keeping its intentions focused on proving the law constitutional and enacting the legislation.
While it is important to remember the heart of the issue and the millions of Americans who are currently uninsured or risk losing access to affordable health care, the law may very well galvanize support among liberals for the coming election if it is declared unconstitutional. Another 5 – 4 split decision, such as those in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, would feed the perception that the court is just as partisan as Congress. If the court strikes down the mandate, liberals would blame it on the conservative justices, and if the mandate is upheld, conservatives will place blame on the liberal justices. Regardless of the court’s decision, the minority vote in this case will seemingly have lost on a political technicality and not because there was legal consensus.
If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is declared unconstitutional, the United States Supreme Court will have successfully ruled that an estimated 30 million Americans don’t deserve access to affordable health insurance. All coming from the same court that declared just over two years ago that corporations are people and that money equates to speech.