I didn’t make a prediction in print on whether the Supreme Court would rule that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional or not, but I told several friends that I thought the vote would be 6-3 in favor of the law. I figured that Roberts always votes for the best interests of large corporations, and most large corporations like the new law because it takes a lot of the burden for paying the nation’s health insurance bill off their backs. It thus made sense to me that Roberts would support the law’s constitutionality.
Roberts chose to justify his thumb up by reducing the many moving parts in the law to a net flow of money and then characterizing that flow as a “tax.” It was the same type of convoluted reasoning that the court has used in many bad rulings it has issued in recent years, such as Citizens United (which released a flood of corporate money into political waters), Bush V. Gore (which gave the 2000 election to the loser of the popular vote) and Knox v. Service Employees (which says that union members can opt out of providing financial support to political candidates). In this case, Roberts twisted so that he could support the law without having to deal with states’ rights and other sacred rightwing principles.
President Obama gave the Republican Party some very good advice at the end of his lunch-time speech about the court’s decision when he said that it’s time to move on. Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Eric Cantor are all making inflammatory statements about repealing the law, but unless the fall election gives them both houses, repeal efforts will do nothing but keep the issue in the news and provide another distraction from solving real problems.
Although Romney has initially said that whoever wants to appeal this law should vote for him, I think he’ll lose if he focuses a good part of his campaign around repeal of the Affordable Care Act. A lot of Tea Partiers may hate the idea of government intervention in health care (except for Medicare, of course, which serves a large number of Tea Partiers), but these folk were going to vote for Romney anyhow. They despise President Obama.
But consider the math. When a Tea Party enthusiast decides to vote for Romney because Mitt supports health care repeal, that’s one vote. The section of the law that keeps children on their parents’ policies until age 26 gets 3 votes: mother, father and adult child.
And that’s the Republicans’ dilemma. There is something for everyone to like in the new law: benefit extensions and protections for the insured, affordable insurance for the uninsured, new funding mechanisms for businesses, fewer noninsured to muck up the finances of hospitals and a lot of potential new customers for insurance companies.
Once Romney and the Republicans start messing with any of these new benefits, someone will get angry. And if they start giving ground on any of these benefits, the true believing Tea Partiers will object. Of course, they could go radical—what I have started calling “bat-Cantor crazy”—and call for the repeal of Medicare and its replacement by a voucher system. I don’t think a lot of seniors are going to like that idea one bit.
In short, now that the Supremes have upheld the constitutionality of the new law, the Republicans have no short-term winning strategy on health care. For that reason, I think that the health care issue will fade away, as Republicans hammer on Obama and the Democrats for the sluggish performance of the economy and the persistence of high unemployment. I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue dropped off the political agenda by the end of the summer.