Obama Criticizes John Roberts On Obamacare Decision

Chief Justice John Roberts may have saved the Affordable Care Act under the Constitution’s taxing power, but President Obama criticized him for decreeing that it does not pass muster under the Commerce Clause.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine published Thursday, Obama said the law is “clearly constitutional under the Commerce Clause,” arguing it “makes no sense” to deprive Congress of the authority to regulate health care as it sees fit.

The president posited that the ruling was designed to “preserve the law” while potentially setting the stage to “scale back Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause in future cases.”

From the Rolling Stone interview:

How do you feel about Justice Roberts’ ruling on the Affordable Care Act? Were you surprised?
I wasn’t surprised. I was always confident that the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, was constitutional. It was interesting to see them, or Justice Roberts in particular, take the approach that this was constitutional under the taxing power. The truth is that if you look at the precedents dating back to the 1930s, this was clearly constitutional under the Commerce Clause. I think Justice Roberts made a decision that allowed him to preserve the law but allowed him to keep in reserve the desire, maybe, to scale back Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause in future cases.

What made you so certain that the law was constitutional?
It’s hard to dispute that health care is a national issue of massive importance. It takes up 17 or 18 percent of our entire economy; it touches on everybody’s lives; it is a massive burden on businesses, on our federal budget and on families. It’s practiced across state lines. So the notion that Congress could not take a comprehensive approach to that problem the way we have makes no sense.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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