“Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well as “Obamacare.” But neither does it lend itself to being uttered with a grimace and a ferocious snarl — as in — “%$*& that #$%&%#@ Obamacare.”
Chief Justice John Roberts Thursday ensured that future use of the term “Obamacare” will more likely be done with a smile or at least with a neutral visage. Moments after the Supreme Court decision, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a valiant attempt to convince the nation that he and the Republicans would continue to do their utmost to repeal the entire PP&ACA in coming days, but it sounded kind of desperate to me.
It sounded kind of like what many folks might have said when the Supreme Court passed Brown v. Board of Education back in 1954. I wasn’t old enough to fully understand that ruling at the time, but I knew it was a good thing. And try as they might, opponents never got much traction in trying to overturn that law.
So, I predict, will it be in this case, despite Senator McConnell’s protestations. Like it or not, when the Supreme Court speaks, it’s usually pretty much final. I can’t think of what specifically or when Congress upended a Supreme Court ruling. In fact a quick investigation shows that there are only two ways to strike down a Supreme Court decision.
First, the Court itself can reverse an earlier ruling as was done with the 19th Century “separate but equal” segregation laws. Second, a Constitutional amendment can be created to overturn a Supreme Court decision. Such was done in the old days with the Eleventh amendment which basically gave a citizen the right to sue his own state or even another state.
I didn’t just naturally know that, and I suspect few others do either, but there you have it. So Senator McConnell’s brave and bold declaration to repeal or overturn the Court’s decision looks a bit puny as it stands.
Determining constitutionality, once again, has taken on a rather weird if not tortuous aspect. That “Obamacare” was found to be not constitutional under the Commerce Clause but constitutional under Congress’s taxing authority seems a stretch — either way or both. Trying to jam modern issues into the framework devised by the Founding Fathers takes on the look of either a leap of faith or a flight of fancy — either way or both.
Some kind of universal health care, established by the government, was probably not on the Founders’ short list of what the government could or should do. Such has been the argument of some against the PP&ACA as a constitutional issue. However, over the past 250 years, clearly the “government” has devised ways to compel American citizens to do things they might not want to do.
Drafting young men into the armed services is a pretty compelling feature of governmental authority. Making people pay income taxes is pretty compelling as well. Preventing employers, school districts and organizations from discriminating against people of different races, religions, genders or with disabilities is a real “in your face” example of governmental authority the Founders didn’t foresee, yet there it is. Apparently, all those manifestations of power over the people have been deemed constitutional.
John Boehner likened the health care reform law to Armageddon a little over two years ago. He said it would ruin this country. Other opponents called it socialism while some predicted a cataclysmic destruction of freedom, democracy, apple pie and motherhood even — if not worse. Well, a lot of bad things have happened here in the USA in the past two years and a couple of months, but nothing of such Biblical proportions.
It’s a pretty good bet that even after the PP&ACA takes full effect over the next few years, we’ll figure out a way to make it work for most of us. And that’s about as much as we can expect from any law.
Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.