Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Going To Supremes

The healthcare law will be heard by the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, setting the stage for oral arguments by March and a decision in late June as the 2012 presidential campaign enters its crucial final months.


The court’s decision to step in had been expected, but Monday’s order answered many questions about just how the case would proceed. Indeed, it offered a road map toward a ruling that will help define the legacy of the Roberts court while focusing renewed political attention on the law that has sharply divided Republicans and Democrats.

The court scheduled five and a half hours of arguments instead of the usual one, a testament to the importance of the case, and the court’s ruling a few months later will present opportunities and challenges for the presidential contenders as well as for candidates in the battle for control of Congress.

I’m not a lawyer — I don’t even play one on TV — so I can’t begin to dissect the various arguments that will be used to make the case for or against the law on legal grounds. There’s an outside chance the court will decide not to rule at all because most of the law hasn’t taken effect yet, but I doubt they would schedule over five hours of oral arguments just to tell everyone to go away and come back later. No, they’ll make a decision, and if I were a betting man, given the political makeup of the court over the last fifteen years, I’d say they’ll come down with a ruling that will make neither side happy.

What’s interesting is that all of the discussion about the case is what the political ramifications will be if the Supreme Court decides one way or the other, but there’s no discussion on what will happen to healthcare in America if the court rules against the law… or in favor of it. That’s the way it goes; very few people thought about what American education and civil rights would look like ten, fifteen, or fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education. Right now the discussion is about who’s got the best lawyers and the best spinmeisters, but fifty years from now, all that will matter is how the ruling will literally save the lives of Americans… or not.