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Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Mandate Under Congressional Power to Tax

By Mark Henry and Keith A Fournier
June 29th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Supreme Court's surprising decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, not under the Commerce Clause, but as an exercise of Congress' power to tax, shocked the press, confused the Nation and sent the experts - and the lawyers - to read, re-read, analyze and parse the lengthy and complex opinion. This dense opinion was authored for a 5- 4majority by Chief Justice John Roberts. Justices Kennedy, Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissented. The decision sets the stage for what will be the most hotly contested presidential election in decades.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Thursday, June 28, 2012, while a pensive Nation watched, the Justices of the United States Supreme Court spoke on the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Affordable care Act (aka Obama Care).

The Supreme Court's surprising decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, not under the Commerce Clause, but as an exercise of Congress' power to tax, shocked the press, confused the Nation and sent the experts - and the lawyers - to read, re-read, analyze and parse the lengthy and complex opinion.

This dense opinion was authored for a 5- 4majority by Chief Justice John Roberts. Justices Kennedy, Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissented. The important decision has now set the set the stage for what will be the most hotly contested presidential election in decades.

The opinion upholding the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") is complex and lengthy. So complex, that the eager media got it wrong.at least initially. The Supreme Court did hold that the mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance was unconstitutional under the Constitution's Commerce Clause. That led to the widespread and inaccurate reporting that the mandate was struck down. It was not!

The individual mandate was upheld, just resting upon a different legal basis, Congress' power to tax. However, the language in this lengthy opinion on other constitutional law will serve as an important marker. It will serve to limit the Federal Government's ability to use the Commerce clause to regulate the behavior of the States and private citizens in future cases.

The effects and aftermath of this controversial law will not end with today's Supreme Court ruling.  The majority opinion, while upholding the disputed penalty provision as a tax, made it clear the Justices did not "pass upon its wisdom". However, this law stands and the reaction has just begun.

The foundation upon which it stands may matter little as it relates to the public policy implications and the real effect on the lives of many people. Then again, there is a lot of the opinion left to read! The net effect of this opinion has yet to be assessed.

Ironically, the Obama Administration initially argued that the penalty for non-compliance with the Affordable Care Act's mandate to purchase insurance was not a tax. However, they changed their position as the argument unfolded on the day of argument in the Chambers of the Court.

Like thousands of lawyers around the Nation, we will digest this complex, dense and surprising opinion and return with further analysis. However, it is important to remember that this Case is not the end of the legal challenges to this massive legislative scheme.

The other constitutional issues which result from its implementation, such as the unconstitutional violation of the Free Exercise of Religion precipitated by the HHS Mandate, have given rise to numerous lawsuits on their way to the same Court.

In fact, those cases, which might have become moot had the Court struck down the Act, now become monumentally important.

In addition, the US Supreme Court has just unleashed a new controversy which will frame the Presidential campaign of 2012.
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Mark Henry is an attorney and founder of Legal Lifeguard, Inc.a provider of Catholic Pro-Life Medical Protection documents.  Get your Free Lifeguard Emergency I.D. Card.  Keith A. Fournier is an attorney who spent much of his legal career in constitutional law and engaged in public policy issues at the intersection of faith and culture. He serves as the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online. 

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