The Supreme Court's ruling is expected to have a huge impact on the 2012 election, both for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney and the president. Romney has campaigned against the president's plan, but also in a tricky spot given that he was governor in Massachusetts when they passed a state plan that the White House regularly says they took parts of to model their plan.
Tom Goldstein, a lawyer who frequently argues before the Supreme Court and co-founded SCOTUSblog, said he sees Obama as “positioning himself to either claim victory or to run against the Supreme Court” this fall.
“He’s defending what it is that he accomplished and trying to drum up popular support if the court strikes the statute down,” Goldstein added.
The force of the ruling is breathtaking in political terms. It gives Obama the Supreme Court’s credibility in arguing that his law was not a massive, unconstitutional overreach. Republican Mitt Romney gets to ride the Tea Party backlash as he promises to tear down the law if he is elected.
The essence of Roberts’s ruling was:
• “The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part,” Roberts wrote.
• “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.”
• But “it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but (who) choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”
For President Obama—he who carries the suffix “care”—the political calculus is more complex. Democrats, who are steeling themselves for an onslaught of super-PAC attacks, are fighting mad about the court’s 5–4 ruling in Citizens United (2010), which brought on this baneful avalanche of cash; whether as campaign strategy or catharsis, some on the left, like Rep. James Clyburn, are pressing Obama to run against the court this year. One prominent law professor advises the president to paint the court as badly out of touch with peoples’ lives, and as “just another aspect of a conservatism gone haywire.”
A sharply divided Supreme Court upheld the individual insurance mandate in President Obama’s health care law on Thursday, handing the White House a major victory on its major domestic achievement four months before the election.
With protestors gathered outside the court's marble halls, Chief Justice John Roberts revealed that he had joined the liberal wing in a 5-4 ruling that the federal government indeed has the power to impose a penalty on those who fail to buy insurance—through its taxing authority, not under the Interstate Commerce Clause, as the administration had argued.
Obama made headlines again in June 2012, when a mandate included in his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (initiated in 2010) was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, thus allowing other important pieces of the law to stay intact. The law includes free health-screenings for certain citizens, restrictions to stringent insurance company policies, and permission for citizens under age 26 to be insured under parental plans, among several other provisions.
“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
— Barack Obama, on the constitutional challenge to his health-care law, April 2
Sotomayor "is an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice," Obama said at a White House announcement.
She "has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice," he added.
If confirmed by the Senate, the 54-year-old judge will bring nearly 17 years of experience on the federal bench and a history of bipartisan appeal to the high court. She was first appointed to federal bench in the Southern District of New York in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush and was named to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as his first appointment to the court, officials said Tuesday, and has scheduled an announcement for 10:15 a.m. at the White House.
If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Judge Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David H. Souter to become the second woman on the court and only the third female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She also would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.