If ever a court case required a souvenir program, the U.S. Supreme Court’s examination of the Democratic Party’s national health care overhaul is it.
Typical appeals before the high court — select cases of great importance, themselves — take many years to reach Washington and get no more than one hour for arguments. The challenge to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, however, arrives before justices Monday, just two years and three days after it became law. It will have six hours of arguments over three days.
Tuesday’s arguments will center on the heart of the matter: ObamaCare’s mandate that all Americans obtain health insurance coverage by 2014. Those who don’t acquire coverage will be required to pay a penalty to the federal government.
“Not since the 1st Continental Congress in 1774, after the Boston Tea Party, has Congress required an American citizen to purchase a product to remain in good standing with the government,” said Las Vegas attorney Mark Hutchison, who represents Nevada in the 26-state challenge to the law because Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto refused to participate.
Moreover, because the law penalizes citizens who refuse to obtain health insurance, “Congress for the first time seeks to regulate our inactivity in commerce. If that’s allowable under the Constitution, then what can’t the government regulate?” Mr. Hutchison asks.
When the court issues its ruling three months from now, the decision will define Barack Obama’s presidency, reshape the 2012 election, change the course of every American business that provides health insurance to its workers and reset every statehouse struggling to predict costs — and those are the secondary impacts.
More than anything else, the Supreme Court’s review of ObamaCare will establish whether Congress and the president have limited powers in controlling the commerce and private decisions of individuals, or whether Washington enjoys almost unlimited power in regulating our lives. The case will clarify whether the language of the Constitution has specific meaning or whether it can be interpreted so broadly that it means what anyone wants it to.