Chief Justice Roberts Legacy Rides on Obamacare Decision

Washington, D.C. – Just like President Barack Obama Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts legacy will be defined by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Court will hear arguments in March on King v Burwell which threatens to gut the Affordable Care Act, depending on the way the ruling falls when the decision comes sometime this summer.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Affordable Care Act, is the biggest piece of social legislation since the Civil Rights Act over 50 years ago. So, a great deal rides on the Courts decision and that is why this is such a complex issue that brings both politics and the law to a collision course.

We know that this is the legacy legislation for President Obama but a number of the most respected national publications are also linking the survival of the Affordable Care Act to Justice Roberts. Here is what the conservative business publication Fortune has to say about the matter.

Whatever it does, the outcome will define Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.’s legacy more than any case since he ascended the bench nine years ago.

That the Court reached out to take the case, King v. Burwell, even though there was no current split over the issue in the federal courts of appeals, suggests that at least four justices already strongly believe that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which rejected the challengers’ argument, came out the wrong way. (To grant review, four of the nine justices must vote to hear it.)

Most observers assume that those four are the same ones who voted to strike the law down three terms ago, in June 2012, on the grounds that it exceeded Congress’s powers to enact: Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.  

Roberts realizes that should the court strike down the law then Congress must have a “Plan B or there could be a massive health care coverage disaster. At the  moment Congress is working a plan that would replace Obamacare but according to the moderate publication POLITICO  it is likely that a plan that could pass both Houses and be signed by President Obama is not going to happen before the 2016 elections.

According to a USA Today report, if the Court strikes down Obamacare and Congress has no backup plan things get very dire.The USA Today report says that in two years, over 12 million people in the United States who presently have insurance would lose their coverage within 24 months if the law were to be struck down.

The more liberal New York Times  directly addresses that area and how the stakes are as high for Roberts as they are for President Obama.

In the first Affordable Care Act case three years ago, the Supreme Court had to decide whether Congress had the power, under the Commerce Clause or some other source of authority, to require individuals to buy health insurance. It was a question that went directly to the structure of American government and the allocation of power within the federal system.

The court very nearly got the answer wrong with an exceedingly narrow reading of Congress’s commerce power. As everyone remembers, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., himself a member of the anti-Commerce Clause five, saved the day by declaring that the penalty for not complying with the individual mandate was actually a tax, properly imposed under Congress’s tax power.  

The Supreme Court decision this summer on the Affordable Care Act, which now covers almost 11 million people in the United States, will be more political than legal. But one thing is for sure and that is both President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts will be forever linked together over Obamacare.

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.