Stuart Taylor: ‘Most Amazing Supreme Court Theater I’ve Ever Seen’

Kaiser Health News

JACKIE JUDD: Good day and welcome to Health Reform and the Court. I’m Jackie Judd. The historic decision from the Supreme Court today leaves the health overhaul law largely intact. The individual mandate is declared constitutional. The court also ruled that states cannot be financially penalized if they choose not to expand Medicaid to millions of the uninsured. Those are the headlines, here with the details is our legal analyst Stuart Taylor who was in the courtroom when the decision was announced. What was it like?

STUART TAYLOR: It was the most amazing Supreme Court theater I’ve ever seen for 50-some minutes. Roberts the chief justice went on for 20 minutes. When you’re three minutes in, you think “Oh my gosh, they’re going to strike down the mandate.” When you’re eight minutes in, you think “Oh no! They’re going uphold it.” And they do uphold it. They uphold it under the taxing power.

JACKIE JUDD: And he, of course, is the deciding vote.

STUART TAYLOR: He is the deciding vote on everything, pretty much. Then, when he starts in on the Medicaid expansion, he starts in, “Oh, they’re striking it down. By 7-2.” And indeed they were. But the footnote is, all this means is the law cannot force the states to join this new expansion by threatening them with the loss of all their existing Medicaid funds if they don’t.

JACKIE JUDD: Let’s start first with the mandate. As I said, it was a 5-4 vote with Roberts breaking the tie. How did they reach that conclusion?

STUART TAYLOR: Well, there were two sources of federal power that the government claims sustained the mandate. The first is the power to regulate interstate commerce, and 90 percent of the public discussion has been about that issue: Can in the name of regulating interstate commerce, can you force people to buy an unwanted commercial product?

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