I was right about the result, but wrong about the margin and justification.
Upholding the ACA is a pro-business result that will be justified by adopting a precedent-supported broad reading of the Commerce Clause. Expect a 7-2 or 6-3 split.
It turned out to be a 5-4 decision with Chief Justice Roberts “switching sides” to find the ACA constitutional. The legal
excuse reasoning the Court used to come to this decision was that the mandate operated as a tax rather than a government-forced commerce.
The Chief Justice is a very clever man. It’s likely that his decision to uphold the law goes beyond the merits of this specific case.
Roberts has notably expressed concern about having too many opinions go along the 5-4 conservative/liberal split and tarnish the image of the court (read: his legacy). This would technically be a mixed majority. He scores on that goal.
Next, he rested the decision on the taxing power rather than the regulation of commerce. That was an easier pill for him to swallow given his own ideology. He gets the result he wants without possibly opening the door to an expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause (but does he end up over-expanding the taxing power?) The tax angle itself has a political benefit, because he sets up his political allies to rant about how “Obamacare is the largest tax increase in history.”
Finally, don’t underestimate the electoral angle. The decision, especially after the media consensus predicted ACA would be ruled unconstitutional, will ignite the right wing base and line them up solidly behind Romney. “Repeal Obamacare” takes its place as a central issue of the campaign. The Chief Justice certainly would prefer Romney choosing his, Roberts’, future colleagues on the bench. By “losing” one case his ideology could be bolstered in many, many future cases by an even larger conservative majority. This angle is a more indirect version of Bush v. Gore, where the Court engaged in legal contortionism to select the next person who chooses the next justices to join the Court. In siding with the liberal wing of the Court today, Roberts will take some heat/hate from the right for awhile, but he hopes to be redeemed in November.
Many on the right should be pleased that the Court upheld the ACA, because it will seriously impede any movement toward a single payer system for several years.
So Democrats should not get too excited over this ruling; and Republicans shouldn’t read it as a total loss. Even so I expect they will rant & rave to fire up the base. The staff at the Daily Show will be very busy today collecting all of the clips of right-wing opinion leaders going completely ape-poopy. I’ll leave you with a link to this sample of first-hour Tweets.