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Sahil Kapur

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.

Articles by Sahil

In a surprise move in its decision to uphold the 'Obamacare' mandate, the Supreme Court declared that states may opt out of the law's Medicaid expansion without losing all federal funds for the program.

"In the 47 year history of the program, there has never been a successful challenge to any of the Medicaid expansions, so this was rather unusual," said Ron Pollack, director of the consumer group Families USA.

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After the Supreme Court validated the 'Obamacare' individual mandate under Congress's power to tax, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was asked by reporters Thursday if he believes the provision is a tax.

"Ask Mitt Romney," he said.

 

In her concurring opinion to uphold 'Obamacare' Thursday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that Congress, in creating the individual mandate, was following the lead of Massachusetts.

It's an apparent jab at Mitt Romney, who enacted the same provision as governor in 2006, but has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected president.

Ginsburg wrote:

Massachusetts, Congress was told, cracked the adverse selection problem. By requiring most residents to obtain insurance ... the Commonwealth ensured that insurers would not be left with only the sick as customers. As a result, federal lawmakers observed, Massachusetts succeeded where other States had failed.

In cou­pling the minimum coverage provision with guaranteed­ issue and community-rating prescriptions, Congress followed Massachusetts' lead. 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday afternoon that the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act emphasizes the need for repeal.

"Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing today's harmful law in its entirety," he told reporters.

"Today's health care decision underscores the importance of this election," said Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

House Republicans are set to vote again to repeal the law Wednesday, July 11.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy added that the ruling "did nothing to end the debate in America on health care."

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a GOP leadership member and point person on health care ruling fallout, said Thursday that "while we respect the court, we respectfully disagree with the decision."

"We are more determined than ever today to repeal this law," she told reporters. "The American people will have the last word."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Thursday that Democrats are not worried about the Supreme Court's decision limiting the Medicaid provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

"We're not bothered at all with the decision in regard to Medicaid," she said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) dodged a question on whether the 'Obamacare' individual mandate is a tax, as the Supreme Court decreed in its ruling Thursday upholding the law.

"Call it what you will, it is a step forward for American families," she told reporters.

Pelosi said she'd like to see the language of the opinion before commenting further.

"The politics be damned, this is about what we came to do," she said. "We're very excited about this day. It's historic."

 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Thursday "a pretty exciting day" after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.

"It was, as you know, no surprise to us," she told reporters, pointing out that Democrats always thought they were on solid constitutional ground.

A passage from Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion Thursday upholding 'Obamacare':

Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.

From Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion, in which he rejects the Obama administration's broad reading of the Constitution's authority to regulate interstate commerce:

Congress addressed the insurance problem by ordering everyone to buy insurance. Under the Government’s theory, Congress could address the diet problem by ordering everyone to buy vegetables. ...

People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act.

That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned. 

Roberts saved the law by essentially declaring the individual mandate a tax, but his reading of the Commerce Clause has significant implications for what Congress can and cannot regulate in the future.

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