On March 23, 2010, the day President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, the New York Times took careful note of the occasion, its pomp and celebration.
Near the top of the account was a description of the president’s curlicue signature; the 22 souvenir signing pens; the blue bracelet with the word, Tedstrong, for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, an inspiration for the reform care bill, on the president’s wrist.
Nine paragraphs down, the story mentions in a single sentence a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general in a dozen states contending the bill that would become known as Obamacare was unconstitutional.
When the lawsuit wasn’t being ignored it was being dismissed by the “experts.” Doug Kendall, founder of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal legal think tank in Washington, D.C., embodied what passed for analysis at the time.
“Their embarrassingly weak claims are political theater, not genuine constitutional arguments, and a waste of both taxpayer money and judicial resources,” Kendall wrote in an op-ed piece for the Detroit Free Press.
“At the center of the Florida suit is the claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is ‘an unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states,’ and thus a violation of the Constitution's 10th Amendment. This argument should produce laughter from the bench for the simple reason that states are entirely free to rid themselves of any burdens imposed by the act by withdrawing from the federal Medicaid program.
“The act reflects the genius of our federalist system, which makes the AGs' grandstanding in this lawsuit all the more unfortunate.”
Three full days of grandstanding over a laughable bit of political theater came to a close Wednesday with the press gripping the corners of the pall in preparation for the burial of Obamacare.
Supporters of the law must now think the unthinkable, as the Washington Post said this morning. What was once thought embarrassingly weak threatens to undo what the Post calls “the most far-reaching accomplishment of the Obama presidency” and redefine the power of the federal government.
As the redoubtable Fred Willard once said, “Wha’ happened?”
The law’s foundation, the requirement forcing every eligible American to buy insurance, happened. After a second day of brutal grilling, the conservative members of the court weighed scrapping the entire Affordable Care Act if the majority invalidates the insurance mandate, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday said the court had a practical decision to make, that between “a wrecking operation” and “a salvage job,” according to the New York Times today.
To salvage the law, Justice Antonin Scalia said, would require something far more practical, heroic, frightening, something almost no member of Congress had done before casting a vote for the Affordable Care Act.
“You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?” the Times said Scalia asked a government lawyer. “Is this not totally unrealistic? That we’re going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?”
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.
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Photo of plasma treatment by flickr user Blind Grasshopper, used via a Creative Commons license.