A divided Supreme Court opened the door to expanded federal powers in a momentous decision Thursday that upheld the constitutionality of President Obamas health-care law.
The five-member majority sided with administration on the centerpiece and most disputed provision of the llaw the so-called universal mandate that requires every American to buy insurance or pay a fine. The high court agreed with the supporters that the fine constituted a tax justified under Congresss power to levy taxes.
Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness, wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who as expected was the swing vote by joining with the courts four liberal justices.
Although the individual mandate does not take effect until 2014, the law is already shaping the delivery of health care and will impact every American. Without the mandate, other provisions of the law had been in doubt. The law also imposed costs on employers who must offer coverage or face fines, too.
If the federal government can force individuals to engage in commerce, i.e, buy health insurance, what else will it be able to do by invoking its power to tax?
Polls show Americans are deeply divided over the law. The courts ruling will not be the final word, though, as the debate continues in the political arena and will no doubt be a major issue in the presidential election.