A new mandate

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Supreme Court splits, and so do politicians

Reactions among elected officials on Thursday to the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the so-called individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were as predictable as they were vehement.

Opinions split along party lines, with Republicans expressing disappointment and Democrats praising the decision.

In what was being hailed as a historic decision even before anyone knew which way the nation’s highest court would decide, justices ruled 5-4 that the legislation’s lynchpin provision, the so-called individual mandate, is constitutionally sound.

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The individual mandate requires every individual to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The court ruled the requirement is allowable as a “tax on those who go without insurance,” because Congress has the power to levy taxes.

The court also, however, limited a Medicaid expansion included in the act, deciding that threatening the states with the loss of existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply was “economic dragooning.”

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who filed a lawsuit against the act, proclaimed Thursday “a dark day for American liberty.”

“This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers,” he wrote in a press release. “The Constitution was meant to restrict the power of government precisely for the purpose of protecting your liberty and mine from the overreaching hand of the federal government.”

After further analysis, however, he issued another press release claiming that he sees “silver linings” in the decision.

It takes only 51 votes, not 60, to repeal a tax bill, he noted. If the Supreme Court considers the individual mandate a tax, it would be easier to repeal.

He also wrote that the court affirmed the Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate only people who are currently engaged in commercial activity.

“This represents the court’s first express acknowledgement of the actual limits on the federal government’s commerce power since the New Deal,” he said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell also said the ruling was disappointing.

“Simply put, this is a blow to freedom,” he said. “America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.”

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said he believes President Barack Obama and Congress “overstepped their constitutional authority in requiring American citizens to purchase a product like health insurance.”

Rep. Randy Forbes lambasted the decision.

“The Court today shattered the myth that it would stand between the overreaching decision of government and the individual liberty of citizens,” he said. “This misguided judgment signals that there are no longer any real limitations on what the government can mandate on the citizens of this nation.”

Senate candidate George Allen said he wants to be “the deciding vote in repealing this health care law.”

“Virginians and Americans would be better served by reforms that deliver on the promise of reducing costs, increasing access to quality care, and put people — not government — in control of their health care,” he said.

His opponent Tim Kaine applauded the decision and said he would work to improve the act if he is elected.

“Our government, businesses and citizens cannot continue to spend more than any other nation on health care while getting second-rate results,” he said in a press release.