The hashtag #ILikeObamaCare tweeted by reelection staffers announced abruptly Friday that the name was adopted by the Obama reelection campaign as the approved shorthand name for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Democrats jubilantly tweeted messages with the hashtag, adding “because” as a challenge to complete the sentence. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Act on Monday.
The GOP began using the term as a derisive pejorative before the Affordable Care Act was even passed. Democrats objected strenuously, and were careful to always use, at least when microphones were open, at least the “Affordable Care Act” part of the name. “Patient Care and Affordable Care Act” was too big a mouthful even for them. But it was awkward, and ObamaCare was an easy and popular shorthand for the public to use. Democrats insisted the press use the full name of the Act, and mostly they did.
But Friday, March 23, on the eve of the Supreme Court’s Monday hearing on the lawsuits brought by 26 State Attorneys General against the Act, the Democrats suddenly embraced the name. The Supreme Court Justices won’t use the term, but reporters and pundits will, and it will make the inevitable explosion of interview on news programs easier to deal with. More to the point… the sting is gone. By making it their own, the Democrats have stripped the GOP’s pejorative term of its ability to invoke derision by its very use. Now it’s just a name.
The Obama Administration made no effort to insist on all possible lower court reviews before the Act reached the Supreme Court. That means it comes to the Supreme Court earlier than perhaps it should. And that may give the Court its easiest option… to simply declare the law not ready for review at their level and send it back. They may say that since it is not fully implemented, it cannot all be reviewed because the effects are not clear. This would not be a surprise, since the Court often looks for reasons to avoid actually addressing the merits of the case.
The Court could also declare the purchase mandate unconstitutional, leaving the rest of the law intact. But that would still need some substantial rework of the Act by Congress, since other provisions of the Act are tied to that provision.
The Court might just declare the whole Act so flawed as to be unconstitutional as it presently stands. There are mandates for businesses, churches and governmental units that have all been challenged in one State suit or another. If they do, it will cause major upheavals in those provisions already implemented.
Finally, the Court may select several provisions as “going too far” and therefore unconstitutional leaving an Act full of gaps and holes, some of which will have to be addressed by a dysfunctional Congress if the rest of the Act is to be useable at all. From a GOP point of view, this may be the best of all possible outcomes short of full unconstitutionality. They could use the continuation of the rest of the Act to force changes the Democrats don’t want to make. But they want the death of the entire act even less.
Assuming the Justices can reach agreement on something other than remanding the law to lower courts, the ruling will likely be a four-to-four vote. If it’s more complicated than simply negating the purchase mandate, the single remaining swing vote on the Court will be the person who decides the fate of health care insurance for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, that Justice is Justice Thomas, who can hardly be considered a bastion of liberalism. Unless the four Justices commonly considered liberal can find some new and strong arguments to sway Justice Thomas, things look iffy for those millions of otherwise uninsured Americans.