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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

Although he saved 'Obamacare' by essentially decreeing the individual mandate a tax, Chief Justice John Roberts embraced the general conservative view that forcing people to engage in an activity against their will is problematic.

"Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority," he wrote.

Roberts' decision places significant limits on the Commerce Clause in the future.

From his 5-4 majority opinion:

As expansive as our cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they all have one thing in com- mon: They uniformly describe the power as reaching “activity.” 

The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Every day individuals do not do an infinite number of things. In some cases they decide not to do something; in others they simply fail to do it. Allowing Congress to justify federal regulation by pointing to the effect of inaction on commerce would bring countless decisions an individual could potentially make within the scope of federal regulation, and—under the Government’s theory—empower Congress to make those decisions for him. 

In Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion upholding the individual mandate, he invoked two key precedents -- Gonzales v. Raich and Wickard v. Filburn -- that authorize sweeping federal power to regulate matters that have a substantial affect on interstate commerce.

Some excerpts:

Our precedents read that to mean that Congress may regulate “the channels of interstate commerce,” “persons or things in interstate commerce,” and “those activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.” ...  The power over activities that substantially affect interstate commerce can be expansive.

Our permissive reading of these powers is explained in part by a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the Nation’s elected leaders. 

From Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act:

We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions. ...

In this case we must again determine whether the Constitution grants Congress powers it now asserts, but which many States and individuals believe it does not possess. Resolv- ing this controversy requires us to examine both the limits of the Government’s power, and our own limited role in policing those boundaries. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, reading from the dissenting opinion, says: "In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety," according to SCOTUSblog.

Kennedy joins Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas in the dissent. The law was upheld 5-4.

The Supreme Court upheld the 'Obamacare' individual mandate in a 5-4 decision Thursday.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal-leaning justices to uphold the mandate, and Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the conservatives against it.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the 'Obamacare' individual mandate.

Via SCOTUSblog: "So the mandate is constitutional. Chief Justice Roberts joins the left of the Court."

On the verge of an expected Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare, Republicans have removed "replace" from their mantra of "repeal and replace," signaling that they may do nothing this year if some or all of the law is declared unconstitutional.

Congressional Republicans had vowed not to return to the pre-Affordable Care Act status quo, which was widely seen as broken. They've since voted unanimously to roll back the law. And while they've flirted recently with reinstating some of the more popular benefits of 'Obamacare' in a replacement plan, they still haven't coalesced around a proposal.

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