Friday, June 29, 2012

Kresta: What Justice Roberts Did and Didn't Do

By Al Kresta

Life is full of surprises. On June 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. This means that we do not have relief from the HHS Mandate. Had the Supreme Court struck down the “individual mandate” or the law in its entirety we would, obviously, have been in a much stronger position. SCOTUS didn’t. So what did Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, actually do?

1) He ruled that the commerce clause cannot be used to make us purchase a product. This seems to have closed the door on similar efforts in the future.

2) He ruled that since the penalty for refusing to comply with the individual mandate functions like a tax, is collected by the IRS, and was so argued by the Justice Department in the oral arguments, then we should call it a tax.

3) Congress has the authority to tax and so Justice Roberts deferred to Congress and let the law stand with some changes on state Medicaid issues.

4) He did signal to all of us that this health care reform will be decided once again in the general election of 2012. This is for the people through their representatives to decide. The Supreme Court will only stop Congress if they have chosen some illegitimate means. At some future time, the boundaries on the taxing powers of Congress will be challenged.

5) We now know that the President and his supporters promised us that this was not a tax. The Supreme Court has now said it is a tax. We were lied to.

6) This make our fight against the HHS mandate all the more significant. Our argument against the HHS mandate is different than the argument against the ACA. It is a different fight. The bishops, for instance, did not challenge the constitutionality of the overall health care reform. They are unanimous, however, in challenging the HHS mandate which is just one particular regulation unilaterally decided upon by the Secretary of Health Human Services to implement the new law.

7) Chief Justice Roberts has demonstrated that the Supreme Court is not just a panel of political partisans. He has deferred to Congress which means to us. Let’s take the chance to reframe this discussion.

We have rallied, we have called our representatives, we have filed lawsuits, and we have submitted legislation. This is what makes America great but it also makes it an adversarial and contentious place where ideas are debated and won. St. Paul writes and affirms that ours is not a spirit of cowardice but of power, love, and self-control. And we are surely called to exercise the powers of our citizenry to affect change in pursuit of the common good.

We are not a people who believe that truth exists only in the sanctuary. We must redouble our efforts to overcome the HHS Mandate. We have a duty to defend the transcendent dignity of the human person and our religious liberty.

History is changed by small coteries of passionate, committed people responding to clearly defined moral objectives and persuasively presenting those objectives to the less committed. Tell your friends and relatives what’s at stake here. Don’t get distracted by the cynicism and bitterness that surrounds us. You have been called to better duty. You are called to defend your religious liberty and the transcendent dignity of the human person. We must continue to fight in the courts and the legislature, but even more importantly in this election year, we must fight at the ballot box and in the public square.

Al Kresta

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article, Al; it is good information, and just the pep talk I needed to here.