Scotus v Potus

US Supreme Court, Washington DC 27 June 2012 The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the healthcare bill on Thursday

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The US Supreme Court is set to make its most politically significant ruling for many years.

It could humiliate the president, eviscerate his most important domestic achievement and change the dynamics of the election campaign.

Or, the judges could simply say that Obamacare, as its opponents call it, is perfectly constitutional and will stand. But not many expect that.

The blame game has already begun.

Some argue President Barack Obama's legal team made a mistake and should have acknowledged the conservative court's predilections and made arguments in tune with "originalism" - appealing to those who think what really matters is what the founding fathers had in mind.

You might have thought if they were going to enthusiastically swallow constitutional idolatry, they might not need to dwell on an 18th Century requirement to purchase muskets, but could go the whole hog and simply argue the constitution itself clearly did not apply in the founding fathers' minds to women or ethnic minorities.

But few seem tempted to go down this road.

'Intolerant and intolerable'

Liberals certainly are not keeping their powder dry when it comes to firing pre-emptive pot shots against the conservative nature of the court.

Justice Antonin Scalia is particularly peppered with buckshot. A law professor called him a ranting, "intolerant and intolerable blowhard".

There were suggestions he should resign and get a spot on conservative talk radio after his direct assault on Obama's policies when dissenting from Monday's judgment on Arizona's immigration law.

This is small-bore stuff. The bigger target in the blame game is President Obama himself.

Of course, the political right will take an adverse ruling as confirmation that the president has been trying to bend America into shape unknown to the constitution.

US President Barack Obama Some of the president's supporters wonder if he has spent too much political capital on healthcare

Perhaps more damaging are the Democrats who will criticise his judgment in spending so much political energy on pursuing healthcare, rather than concentrating on the economy.

Certainly the messy, painful birthing of the law undermined his credibility as a reformer who came to office refusing to do business the old Washington way.

The outcome was a series of complex compromises, which robbed the plan of any clarity and made it difficult to explain and sell.

Many Americans think it is a "government take-over" of healthcare, (which it is not) and many more still do not know what it means for them, partly because it is not yet knowable.

Fury at what was seen as an expansion of state power breathed life into a new movement - the Tea Party - which became President Obama's nemesis. It put paid to any hope that he could act as a bridge into a new bipartisan politics.

'Very brave'

President Obama's supporters can still argue for the moment that paying this high political price was worth it in return for protecting previously uninsured Americans.

But they will not be able to do so if the judges kill it off. Then all that sacrifice will have been for nothing.

If the Supreme Court strikes down healthcare it will be a huge setback for President Obama, the worst shellacking since the mid-term elections. How he responds could be critical and might change the way the election campaign is fought.

His priority would have to be to rally supporters, harness their disappointment and fight back. It is just not easy to see how he does that.

If he attacks the court, it would sound petulant. Calling on Congress to act in some non-specific way is getting a bit thin, not least because we all know it is not a plan but a tired taunt.

It is also a strategy from La La Land. Even if he wins re-election, he would still face an intransigent Republican House. And it is not clear how he could salvage universal healthcare without the option of forcing people to buy insurance.

The Act minus this provision equals rocketing costs. Radical supporters will urge him to go for what is called here "a single-payer scheme", which means an NHS-type system, funded out of general taxation.

This surely is constitutional - taxes are allowed - and has a certain logic. It would also be what they used to call in Yes, Minister "very brave", in other words, politically suicidal.

The judgment itself, so eagerly awaited, will only be Act One, the premise of the play. Act Two, President Obama's response, is much more important and will dictate how the drama unfolds.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • Comment number 187.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    177:coram-populs-2012:If they take you off you can reapply the next month if you will make less than the maximum that month. All earned money is reported to the state unemployment office so they will know if you get unemployment if you get laid off. If you work off the books or get a higher wage job and don't report it you have to repay and are disqualified from benefits for the next year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Anyone who presumes to know in advance how SCOTUS or any 1 Justice will rule on a particular case in advance is mistaken.They are entirely unpredictable and will surprise you when you least expect it.It was just so this time around.Seemingly conservative Justice Roberts ruled the law is almost entirely constitutional and stands.There's 3 co-equal branches.A SCOTUS Justice is appointed for life

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    102. meerkat

    "USAF Academy..."

    Are you serious?

    The infrastructure that supports everything you listed is staffed by illegal aliens at the bottom level. Without this (illegally) cheap workforce, prices will go up, and yes, that will damage Colorado's economy. Ski tickets already run over $100 a day.

    Out west, everything depends on undocumented workers... and probably where you live, too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Curt Carpenter (95),

    "There are parts of the ACA that stick in everyone's throat -- but it's a start. And now, perhaps our worthless congress (both parties) can do what they should have done in the first place and work together to improve it. (Fat chance.) ..."

    I find myself in the most unusual position of agreeing with you, right down the line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.


    On the bright side, recall all those governors who weren't going to take the "evil" stimulus money, until they did. I suspect this should follow a similar path.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Midwestern Sue,

    Incredibly, it seems possible you may have a more valid concern than I would have thought possible.
    For it to be as bad as some speculate, would seem to require "conservatives" to virtually hold the poor hostage. I'm not saying they would.
    I don't see how anyone who cares about this could suggest they would vote for the party these people are associated with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    It is good to see a country that spends on defense 8 times more that any other country and nearly half the total of what's spent by every other country in the world secure affordable elective health care for it's citizens. If murderers and paedophiles in the US are entitled to tax payer paid legal aid then why shouldn't an innocent cancer patient be entitled to tax payer paid elective health care

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    LucyJ-Just wondering what your legal background is that allows you to challenge the authority of a person who has dedicated his adult life in the study of law and the Constitution of the United States? How much of your young life have you devoted to the study of our Constitution? Minutes? Hours? Days? Years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Re. 126 m.w. Sue:

    "... nothing in law to prevent lowering % of gdp on healthcare by denying care..."
    In many instances that's the score now. Your point? PPACA will bring more people into the system, more care and prevention. Lowering gdp % will require us, citizens, to cut the political spin on behalf of others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    @176 'MidwesternSue'
    So presumably you and your employer has to declare what you earn and what they pay you. At the end of the tax year all input and output has to balance. Perhaps some difficulties are caused by tax avoidance and those who work off the books - for various reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    175:coram-populo-2010:It's run by the state. The people who interview you are local. They fax your info to the state and you get a letter telling you if you qualify for benefits. In my county there are 4 or 5 offices. You go to the one that covers your address. If you make more than $1180 a month for a single person you have to report what you made and they may take you off. cont.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    @173 LucyJ'
    Are you poor? What makes somone poor in America? Is it registered to the State or county you live in? I would have thought that America, as an advanced nation, would have figured that out by now - and sorted her problems on her doorstep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    173:LucyJ:People within 115% of the poverty level, I think it was, were suposed to be covered by Medicaid and would not be taxed. So if you're poor I think you avoid the tax even if you don't have health coverage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    MidwestSue: I don't think if you are truly poor you will be punished with a tax

    Obamacare is a tax

    This tax is only done for people who don't have or can't afford health care
    which means Obama supports punishing people for being poor

    Obamacare is just plain wrong

    If it was truly to help poor people
    it wouldn't punish them

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    @170 'LucyJ'
    It's a pity that your mind is so closed. It's not an indication of intelligence.

    America is still one of the richest nations on earth due to huge natural resources alone. It's a shame that Republicans are fighting on repealing healthcare reforms. No doubt they are itching for another war to take your tax dollar to distract you - rather than dealing with problems at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    167:LucyJ: that allows the poor person to get health care and avoid the emergency room, because it gives the new doctors someone to practice on and is much less expensive than hospital services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Isn't it ironic the man Obama opposed being nominated to Supreme Court upheld Obama's greatest victory?

    Now John Roberts is one of the most disliked people in the whole USA thanks to his pro-Obamacare decision

    I still believe Obamacare+Citizens United are both unconstitutional
    no matter what the court says

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    @166 'MidwesternSue'
    Well, I'm glad we agree on Republicans starting wars. I am fully in agreement with you on voting for competents - although it depends on what competent means.

    We both live in difficult and chaotic times, especially with the liar, pants on fire bankers. Kind regards. Coram.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    167:LucyJ:I don't think if you are truly poor you will be punished with a tax. But in overturning the requirement that states add all the poor to their Medicaid rolls, the Supreme Court effectively removed you and all the other able bodied poor from the group of people who will have health coverage. Most American hospitals have some free or almost free system cont.


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