(These people have taxpayer-financed health care)
So, last week, the conservative majority (I include Justice Kennedy in this group, even though he is technically the Court’s “swing vote”) surprised many observers by savaging Solicitor General Donald Verrilli over the Constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Typically, Justice Scalia was most disdainful (whatever happened to decorum?) and, no shock here, the most ideological of the questioners, asking, at one point, if upholding the law would mean the government could require people to eat broccoli. This kind of questioning, from a Supreme Court Justice, should have been embarrassing, and, of course, it’s nonsense.
Before the arguments began last week, some journalists, including NPR’s ace Nina Totenberg, were opining that Chief Justice John Roberts would be concerned about the Court appearing overly partisan (that’s to the Right, of course) and would hope (perhaps work for) something other than the 5-4 conservative majority we see so often from this bench. But Roberts sounded to me like he was piling on.
Other reporters thought Justice Kennedy was looking for a way to uphold the law, including the mandate to purchase insurance, but if that was so, it certainly wasn’t obvious to me, a non-lawyer, from his questions.
Several Brookings Institution scholars have posted a series of commentaries on last week’s events.
Meanwhile, a lot of legal experts, including self-identified conservatives, are seriously worried that the Roberts Court has placed every consideration behind that of ideology. Precedent, so important in the law, seems to have little weight with the conservative majority of this Court, hence their ruling on Citizens United. And it’s been very clear they favor the rights of large corporations over those of individuals – except those individuals who own guns – or even the general good.
There is much debate over how the Court’s ruling, expected in June, will affect the November elections. Striking down the law, some say, will energize angry Dems and take away one of the Rs’ biggest weapons, while leaving their Members in Congress scrambling to find an alternative.
But, frankly, I’m much more worried about what happens to other regulatory legislation, like environmental protection and labor laws, if the majority decides it wants to go after them as examples of big-government over-reach. Remember, the Court took it upon itself to open up the Citizens United case beyond the immediate question and use that to overturn a century’s worth of precedent and open the floodgates for hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate cash to overwhelm our elections.
We have not, unfortunately, seen the end to this slide into the darkness.