And his supporters by more than half.
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THOSE WHO DISLIKE Barack Obama or his “signature achievement” may be motivated by the Thursday’s events, but the ruling remains an important victory for the president, even as it is likely a negative for individual Democratic members of the U.S. Senate facing difficult reelection campaigns in November. How big a victory this is for Obama depends on whether Republicans get better at messaging than they have been during the quarter-century since Ronald Reagan left the White House.
Republicans and conservative activists didn’t take long to figure this out: Representative Jeff Landry (R-LA) called the individual mandate “the largest tax increase on the poor and the middle class in the history of this country.” Statements from pro-liberty and pro-jobs organizations included many phrases like “the nation’s largest and broadest tax increase in history” (from Americans for Job Security) and “Obamacare today became the largest tax increase in American history. The health care law has nearly doubled in cost from $940 billion to $1.76 trillion and taxpayers deserve nothing less than full repeal and defunding by Congress. American taxpayers can’t afford the tax increases in the law…” (from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) got into the act within minutes of the Supreme Court ruling, making a statement from the Senate floor calling for full repeal of Obamacare and observing that “it’s not just that the promises about this law weren’t kept. It’s that it has made the problems it was meant to solve even worse.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced that the House will take up a vote on the repeal of Obamacare following their July 4th recess. That effort will be dead-on-arrival at the Democrat-controlled Senate but makes for good political theater.
Not surprisingly, Democratic reaction was rather different, with Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) saying that the Court’s ruling “not only upholds the effort but it upholds one of the methods that we spent a lot of time trying to get it into law.… Big, big victory for Obama.”
The ruling is an epiphany for Democrats: Any time we want to regulate anything, we can now do so — as long as we impose a tax for non-compliance, and we probably don’t even have to call it a tax until we get to court!
If there is a shred of judicial good news from Thursday’s Court ruling, it is that a majority of the Justices would have struck down the mandate if the question were only related to the Commerce Clause. The Court has allowed Congress to run roughshod over economic liberty since FDR’s court-packing scheme cowed the Supreme Court into reserving “strict scrutiny” for non-economic issues while allowing economic regulations and law to be deemed constitutional as long as Congress could make a “rational basis” claim. Perhaps the best measure of how beneficial the judicial hidden gem in the Obamacare ruling is comes from the opinion of the far-left Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in which she decries “the Chief Justice’s novel constraint on Congress’ commerce power.”
This is the first time in recent memory that an economic issue would have been found unconstitutional on a Commerce Clause basis, which bodes well for those who would fight future Congressional overreach — unless Congress finds a way to impose that overreach as a tax, which today’s ruling will of course make Democrats (and their occasional Republican allies in regulation) attempt to do. The good news is that imposing new taxes is near the top of the list of politically perilous pursuits.
For the hard-core constitutional thinkers, there was another piece of good news on Thursday: According to legal scholar David Kopel of the Independence Institute, “For decades, advocates of unlimited government have asserted that the Necessary and Proper Clause gives Congress the power to enact anything that Congress thinks is a good idea. Today’s decision slams the door on that notion, and returns the Necessary and Proper Clause to originalist principles.”
THE POLITICAL IMPACT of the ruling will be fascinating to watch evolve. In his first public remarks following the Court’s ruling, Mitt Romney stated that “Our mission is clear: if we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama.” Romney added “What the Court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected President of the United States.”
In his comments, Romney suggested that the Supreme Court “did not say that Obamacare is good law or that it is good policy. Obamacare was bad policy yesterday; it is bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law yesterday; it is bad law today.” He went on to discuss the negative impacts of Obamacare:
[Despite raising taxes and cutting Medicare], Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to national debt and pushes those obligations on to coming generations. Obamacare also means that for up to 20 million Americans, they will lose the insurance they currently have, the insurance that they like and they want to keep. Obamacare is a job killer…three quarters of those surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce said Obamacare makes it less likely for them to hire people. And perhaps most troubling of all, Obamacare puts the federal government between you and your doctor. For all those reasons, it is important for us to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Clearly some people agreed: Romney’s campaign reported a million dollars in online campaign contributions in the three hours after the ruling was announced. In that same time frame, in political betting on intrade.com, the odds of President Obama winning re-election rose very slightly from just under 54 percent to about 55 percent, still well below the 60 percent betting odds that persisted for Obama for most of the last six months.
About half an hour after Romney spoke, President Obama began his reaction to the ruling by dodging the real issue of the day, claiming that the Supreme Court’s ruling “reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America, in the wealthiest nation on earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.” Of course, this is not what the Court “reaffirmed” nor is it about any “fundamental principle.”
The president made specific reference to the political impact of the Court’s action, saying that is a conversation for later; clearly Barack Obama knows that this “win” is a double-edged sword.
Needless to say, Obama did not mention the word “tax” in his remarks.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online