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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

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.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) postponed his Thursday press conference in response to the Supreme Court health care ruling.

Reporters gathered in the room and, half an hour after its scheduled time, were told it's been indefinitely delayed.

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. 

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