Individual mandate upheld as tax: Supreme Court updates

at 10:24 AM ET, 06/28/2012

1:37 p.m. This news event is no longer really live, so we’re closing up this liveblog. Don’t worry, we’ll still have plenty of coverage.

1:34 p.m. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke very briefly as part of a leadership press conference.

“I think today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety,” he said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) spoke next, saying that Americans will not be able to keep the health-care they have under Obamacare. He said he scheduled a July 9 repeal vote to “clear the way” for better reform.

Four Republican female lawmakers spoke first.

1:25 p.m. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul says the campaign has raised $1 million since the Supreme Court decision. Romney already has a web video fundraising pitch:

1:20 p.m. Politics guru Stu Rothenberg says the decision is a big political win for Republicans — disagreeing with The Fix. (We tolerate that.) Here’s his take:

Had the Court thrown out the law, Republicans would have had to scramble to figure out what to offer as a replacement. Democrats could have raised the specter of people being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions and young adults being thrown off their parents’ policies.
Now, Republicans can attack the law not only for being “big government” but for being a huge tax during in weak economy, adding burdens to middle class taxpayers and slowing economic growth. And the GOP doesn’t have to come up with a detailed plan to “replace” Obama’s health care plan.

1:06 p.m. Will the Court’s restrictions on the Commerce Clause made it harder for Congress to impose new regulations in the future? Maybe, maybe not.

12:45 p.m. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke from the House floor.

“The politics be damned, this is about what we came to do,” she said.

Pelosi dodged a question about whether the individual mandate is a tax, calling it a debate over “technical terms” and “Washington talk ... Call it what you want, it is a step forward for American families.”

She said the ruling was “no surprise to us” but “we’re very excited about this day. It’s historic.”

12:37 p.m. Aaron Blake notes that Democratic lawmakers and candidates facing tough races are not exactly cheering.

12:31 p.m. One passage from Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority decision that is getting a lot of attention:

Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.

According to CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, “Roberts was red-eyed and unhappy as he read.”

12:20 p.m. Speaking from the White House, Obama used the Supreme Court decision as an opportunity to tout the health-care law’s benefits.
(Luke Sharrett - AP)

He said that discussion of the politics of the ruling “misses the point.” From there, Obama launched into a summary of how the law works for people with and without insurance.

Obama defended the individual mandate in detail. 

“If you ask insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions but don't require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they are sick to buy the care they need which would also drive up everybody else's premiums,” he said. “That's why, even though I knew it wouldn't be politically popular and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so..”

Acknowledging the continuing controversy over the law, Obama said “it should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics, I did it because I believed it was good for the country.” He added that now that the Supreme Court has weighed in, “it’s time to move forward.”

His conclusion: “Today I am as confident as ever, that when we look back 5 years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we will be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.”

Like Romney, the president did not take questions.

12:14 p.m. For any tax-law wonks out there, SCOTUSBlog explains why the Anti-Injunction Act didn’t preclude the Supreme Court from considering the health-care case:

The short answer is that – at least after today’s opinion – courts apply a different test to determine whether a law constitutes a tax for constitutional purposes (i.e., the taxing power) than they do to determine whether the same law constitutes a tax for statutory jurisdiction purposes (i.e., the AIA). 

12:00 p.m. Romney spoke for four minutes, again promising that he would repeal the health-care bill if he becomes president.
(Charles Dharapak - AP)

“What the court did not do in its last day in session, I will do on my first day of president of the United States,” he said. He noted that the Court decision did not say that “Obamacare is good law or good policy.”

Romney gave some time to the “replace” part of “repeal and replace,” saying he would “make sure that those people who have pre-existing conditions know that they will be able to be insured and they will not lose their insurance” and that he would “help each state in their effort to assure that every American has access to affordable healthcare.”

He concluded, “This is a time of choice for the American people. If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama.”

The candidate did not take questions.

11:52 a.m. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) relays the news of the Supreme Court decision to her staff. Echoes of this award-winning Melina Mara photo taken after the bill passed the House, when Pelosi was Speaker. She was wearing the same lucky purple pumps today.
(J. Scott Applewhite - AP)

Aides said Pelosi left messages for Obama and Biden and told Vicki Kennedy: “Now, Teddy can rest.”

Pelosi also called her husband, Paul, and told him: “Sweetie, we won!”

11:48 a.m. If you were following InTrade in the days before the Supreme Court decision, you probably remember that the betting market site put the likelihood that the mandate would be thrown out at about 75 percent. Why was the prediction market so wrong? Barry Ritholtz explains that the site’s bettors are really a focus group.

11:41 a.m. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and author of his own health-care bill, says the ruling “has set a dangerous precedent by allowing this administration to continue pursuing its unbridled effort to erode personal freedom and undo the principles upon which this country was founded.” House Republicans, he said, will “exercise every possible legislative option to repeal this disastrous law.”

11:38 a.m. Supporters of the law celebrating outside the Supreme Court:
(Evan Vucci - AP)

11:31 a.m. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says the decision “preserves ... the Supreme Court’s position as an institution above politics” and asks Republicans to move on. (Not very likely.)

“This decision preserves not only the health care law, but also the Supreme Court’s position as an institution above politics. Just as Speaker Boehner vowed not to spike the football if the law was overturned, Republicans should not carry on out of pique now that the law has been upheld. Democrats remain willing to cooperate on potential improvements to the law, but now that all three branches of government have ratified this law, the time for quarreling over its validity is over. Congress must now return its full-time focus to the issue that matters most to the public, and that is jobs.”

11:19 a.m. American Crossroads, one of two outside spending groups advised by former Bush administration official Karl Rove, argues that the decision will be good for Republicans come November.

“While we would have preferred to see Obamacare struck down, this decision will drive Republican voter intensity sky-high,” said Crossroads President Steven Law in a statement. “The Supreme Court effectively made the 2012 elections the most important in a century.”

11:15 a.m. President Obama will deliver a statement at 12:15 from the East Room of the White House. Mitt Romney will speak at 11:45 from 101 Constitution Avenue NW.

For a hint at what Romney will say, check out this image of his team setting up, courtesy of CNN’s Jim Costa:

11:09 a.m. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, we’ve updated our health-care calculator to explain what the decision means for you:

11:07 a.m. Rick Santorum responds: “Today's outcome is the worst of all scenarios,” the former presidential candidate says. “I have no doubt that [President Obama] sees today's ruling in his favor as a mandate that he can now do whatever he chooses by any means possible.”

10:59 a.m. The Republican-controlled House will vote (again) on full repeal of the Affordable Care Act the week of July 9, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

“During the week of July 9th, the House will once again repeal ObamaCare, clearing the way for patient-centered reforms that lower costs and increase choice,” Cantor said in a statement. “We support an approach that offers simpler, more affordable and more accessible health care that allows people to keep the health care that they like.”

The House first voted to repeal the health-care law in January of 2011, shortly after the new GOP majority took control. Democratic control of the Senate means that now, as then, the vote is largely symbolic.

Of course, that could change in a few months, a possibility Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alluded to in his statement.

“Today’s decision does nothing to diminish the fact that Obamacare’s mandates, tax hikes, and Medicare cuts should be repealed and replaced with common sense reforms that lower costs and that the American people actually want,” McConnell said. “It is my hope that with new leadership in the White House and Senate, we can enact these step-by-step solutions and prevent further damage from this terrible law.”

10:52 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just spoke from the Senate floor. Here is a rush transcript. Apologies for all caps.

MR. REID: MR. PRESIDENT, I’M HAPPY, I’M PLEASED TO SEE THE SUPREME COURT PUT THE RULE OF LAW AHEAD OF PARTISANSHIP AND RULED THAT THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IS CONSTITUTIONAL. NOW, MR. PRESIDENT, THIS IS A LONG OPINION, AND WE KNOW THAT WHEN WE COME BACK HERE AFTER THE ELECTIONS, THERE MAY BE SOME THINGS WE NEED TO DO TO IMPROVE THE LAW AND WE’LL DO THAT WORKING TOGETHER, BUT TODAY MILLIONS OF AMERICANS ARE ALREADY SEEING THE BENEFITS OF THE LAW THAT WE PASSED. SENIORS ARE SAVING MONEY ON THEIR PRESCRIPTIONS AND CHECKUPS. CHILDREN CAN NO LONGER BE DENIED INSURANCE BECAUSE THEY HAVE A PREEXISTING CONDITION. PROTECTION THAT WILL SOON EXTEND TO EVERY AMERICAN. NO LONGER WILL AMERICAN FAMILIES BE A CAR ACCIDENT OR A HEART ATTACK AWAY FROM BANKRUPTCY. MR. PRESIDENT, I JUST HAD -- EVERY THURSDAY, I HAVE A WELCOME TO WASHINGTON. TODAY THEY HAD A GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM NEVADA WHO HAVE OR HAVE RELATIVES THAT HAVE CYSTIC FIBROSIS. IT’S BEEN SO HARD FOR THESE YOUNG PEOPLE TO GET INSURANCE. IT’S NOT GOING TO BE THAT WAY ANYMORE, MR. PRESIDENT. NO LONGER WILL AMERICANS LIVE IN FEAR OF LOSING THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE BECAUSE THEY LOSE A JOB. NO LONGER WILL TENS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS RELY ON EMERGENCY ROOM CARE OR GO WITHOUT CARE ENTIRELY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO INSURANCE AT ALL.
VIRTUALLY EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA WILL HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTH INSURANCE THEY CAN AFFORD AND THE VITAL CARE THEY NEED. PASSING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT WAS THE GREATEST SINGLE STEP IN GENERATIONS TOWARD ENSURING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE FOR EVERY PERSON IN AMERICA, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY LIVE, HOW MUCH MONEY THEY MAKE. MR. PRESIDENT, UNFORTUNATELY, REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS CONTINUE TO TARGET THE RIGHTS AND BENEFITS GUARANTEED UNDER THIS LAW. I’D LIKE TO GIVE THE POWER BACK TO THE INSURANCE COMPANIES, THE POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH BACK TO THE INSURANCE COMPANIES, OUR SUPREME COURT HAS SPOKEN. THE MATTER IS SETTLED. NO ONE BUT THINKS THIS LAW IS PERFECT. THE PRESIDING OFFICER DOESN’T, I DON’T, BUT DEMOCRATS HAVE PROVEN WE’RE WILLING TO WORK WITH REPUBLICANS TO IMPROVE THE PROBLEMS THAT EXIST IN THIS LAW OR ANY OTHER LAW. MILLIONS OF AMERICANS ARE STRUGGLING TO FIND WORK TODAY AND WE KNOW THAT. OUR FIRST PRIORITY MUST BE TO IMPROVE THE ECONOMY. IT’S TIME, THOUGH, FOR REPUBLICANS TO REFIGHTING YESTERDAY’S BATTLES. NOW THAT THIS MATTER ISSTOP SETTLED, LET’S MOVE ON TO OTHER THINGS, LIKE JOBS. I WOULD NOTE THE ABSENCE OF A QUORUM.

10:50 a.m. The broccoli meme survives. John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), told the Post: “The Court affirmed Congress’ power to tax people if they don’t eat their broccoli.  Now it’s up to the American people to decide whether they will tolerate this obscene abuse of individual liberty.”

10:45 a.m. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who ran his state’s Department of Health and Hospitals in the late 1990s, responds:

“Ironically, the Supreme Court has decided to be far more honest about Obamacare than Obama was.  They rightly have called it a tax. Today’s decision is a blow to our freedoms. The Court should have protected our constitutional freedoms, but remember, it was the President that forced this law on us.
“The American people did not want or approve of Obamacare then, and they do not now.  Americans oppose it because it will decrease the quality of health care in America, raise taxes, cut Medicare, and break the bank.  All of this is still true. Republicans must drive hard toward repeal, this is no time to go weak in the knees.”

10:43 a.m. Marissa Evans reports from the scene outside the courthouse:

Pro-health-care supporters broke out into chants of "we love Obamacare!" and then moved to "Yes We Can!" after the Supreme Court upheld the decision for the health-care act.

Dr. Harvey Fernbach, member of the DC area Physicians for a National Health Program stood outside the Supreme Court holding a Support HR 676  sign. He's been practicing medicine for 41 years and has seen patients get worse with high blood pressure, cataracts and other ailments due to not being able to afford health care.

"It's the quickest way to save lives, money and it makes it easier to practice medicine here in America," Fernbach said.

Tanvi Madhusudanan sat across the street from the courthouse on Thursday watching the chanting supporters and opposers with the hot sun beaming in her face.

"Health care is a real problem," she said. "Compared to other countries if they can have universal health care, we can too."

Oliver Darcy stood on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court holding a sign over his head that said, "This is a big F***kin Deal"

"I don't think the federal government shouldn’t have the ability to mandate me to purchase a product for my own good," he said.

10:40 a.m. The full Supreme Court opinion on the health-care law is now online.

10:36 a.m. While the individual mandate decision is a victory for the Obama administration the court did damage to another aspect of the law.

On the Medicaid question, the judges found that the law’s expansion of Medicaid can move forward, but not its provision that threatens states with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if the states declined to comply with the expansion. 

10:34 a.m. President Obama will speak in a couple of hours, the White House says.

10:27 a.m. More detail on the decision from SCOTUSBlog that makes clear the split on whether the mandate is constitutional under the Commerce Clause or as a tax:

Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn’t. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.

10:22 a.m. We’ll be updating this post with reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. The Court ruled that Congress can levy tax penalties on individuals who do not have health insurance.

Here’s the key quote from the opinion of the court:

Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.

 
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