GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The US Supreme Court Thursday 28 June gave President Barack Obama a resounding victory by saying yes to his effort to overhaul the country’s health care system, four months ahead of presidential elections.T
The swing vote came from the chief justice. While NPR described his role as “Roberts joined the four liberal justices to form a majority,” Fox News said “Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed during a Republican administration, joined the four left-leaning justices on the bench in crafting the majority decision.”
Fox goes on to note that “the ruling relied on a technical explanation of how the individual mandate could be categorized. Roberts, in the opinion, said the mandate could not be upheld under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. However, it could be upheld under the government’s power to tax.”
Obama to speak soon on the bill’s passage
Republicans who have fought it promptly said they would make it the main business of Congress in 2013 to repeal the law if they win a majority in November of this year, CNN reports. The Senate is controlled by Democrats, while the House is controlled by Republicans.
Obama’s health care plan, which represents the first overhaul of the country’s health care system in 50 years, will extend medical coverage to some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and control soaring healthcare costs.
The bill, which has received much criticism from Republicans and been dubbed by them as “Obamacare”, contains a crucial component, challenged on the grounds that it exceeded constitutional law because it would require all people to have health insurance or pay a fine. Twenty-six out of 50 states, as well as a trade group for small businesses, were critical of this element.
NPR reports, “Chief Justice John Roberts said the requirement that individuals have health coverage or pay a penalty — known as the individual mandate — is within Congress’ power to impose taxes. On the issue of Medicaid expansion, a majority of the court said Congress can expand Medicaid, but it can’t strip states of all their Medicaid funds if they fail to participate in that expansion.”
Obama’s Republican challenger for the presidency, Mitt Romney is critical of the bill, although as governor of Massachussetts he was favourable to similar legislation on a state level.
The nine member court includes a majority of conservative judges nominated by Republican presidents and tension was high early Thursday before Chief Justice John Roberts made the announcement.