The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the cornerstone piece of legislation of the Obama administration. The court found the Obama administration and Congress were constitutionally within their rights but for the wrong reason.
The Obama administrations primary argument in supporting health care reform legislation was that Congress had the power to enact the ACA based upon Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, the Commerce Clause stating Congress has the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States..." The Court held that the ACA was unconstitutional based upon the Commerce Clause but is constitutional based upon Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1, that states "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties..."
Politically, the Obama administration argued that the individual mandate of the ACA – requiring everyone to obtain insurance or face a fine – was a penalty, not a tax. They downplayed the tax aspect of the law, even downplaying the word "tax" in the legislation itself. The administration did not want to fall into the conservative trap of being labeled a tax-and-spend liberal administration.
This court's decision provides an interesting conundrum for the administration and the opposition. The administration won in the Supreme Court, but can it now win in court of public opinion? Can the administration construct a narrative that explains to the American people that the ACA is a positive piece of legislation?
According to the Washington Post "A majority of Americans view... the changes enacted in President Obama's health care bill in an unfavorable light...in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 52 percent regard the 'federal law making changes in the health care system' in a negative light." If they don't construct a better narrative they could win the battle and lose the war.
Mitt Ronmey and his conservative cohorts have contributed to this public perception by basing their argument that the ACA was unconstitutional and an overreach by the administration. They argued that this is an intrusion by the government into the lives of average American citizens. They even engaged in the politics of deceit to bolster their arguments. For example, according to Fact Check.org House Republicans have sought "... to repeal what they call "Obamacare: A budget-busting, job-killing health care law."
Independent, nonpartisan experts project only a "small" or "minimal" impact on jobs, even before taking likely job gains in the health care and insurance industries into account.
The House Republican leadership, in a report issued Jan. 6, badly misrepresents what the Congressional Budget Office has said about the law. In fact, CBO is among those saying the effect "will probably be small."
This is a great victory for the Obama administration and the American people. Republican State Attorney Generals and Republican governors colluded with GOP members of Congress and other conservatives to challenge the Obama administration in the highest court in the land. It was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, nominated by Republican President George W. Bush, who sided with more liberal justices and handed the administration the victory. President Obama went up against the entire Republican and conservative onslaught – and won.
It is imperative that the American people connect the dots. Sen. Minority Leader McConnell (R-Kentucky) said more than two years ago that his primary objective was to see to it that Barack Obama is a one-term president. The Republicans refusal to work with the administration on "the people's business" has done this country a great disservice.
People need to ask themselves, "Where would this country be if Republicans had worked with President Obama by finding common ground instead of holding their ground for the sake of bigoted obstructionist political ideology?"
The administration won the health care battle in the court of law. Can they win in the court of public opinion?