Court’s decision a historical juncture

It’s hard to think of a time that

the U.S. Supreme Court has played

a more important a role in our nation’s

life than it is right now.

The Court has handed down

many decisions that altered the

course of our nation’s political and

social history, some of them monumental.

Marbury v. Madison in 1803,

for instance, is often called the

most important case in Supreme

Court history, as it defined the

Court’s role as the ultimate arbiter

of the constitutionality of laws and

executive actions.

Brown v. Board of Education

(1953) unanimously held that racial

segregation of children in public

schools violated the Constitution,

which laid the groundwork for the

civil rights changes that swept the

nation over the next few decades.

New York Times v. Sullivan

(1964) established what is today

considered the “freedom of the

press” under the First Amendment.

Griswold v. Connecticut

(1965) was the initial recognition

of a constitutional right to privacy,

which has since become a

precedent for abortion rights (Roe

v. Wade) and homosexual rights

(Lawrence v. Texas).

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

established the “Miranda rights,”

which require police to inform

criminal suspects who have been

detained of their right to an attorney

and protection against self


Last week the nine justices

spent three days – a lengthy period

for a Supreme Court case – hearing

arguments on the constitutionality

of President Obama’s universal

healthcare law, the Affordable

Care Act, more commonly known

as “Obamacare.” They voted after

conferring together on the case

last week, but only they and their

clerks will know the outcome until

their written decision is announced

before the court term, likely on or

around July 4.

At issue in this case, Florida

v. The Department of Health and

Human Services, is whether the

government can force individuals

to buy health insurance, the “mandate,”

as it is known.

Without going into all the arguments

for or against the law,

which would require much more

space than we have available here,

we will only say that this case

highlights the importance of the

Supreme Court in our governmental


Those who believe that this

healthcare law is symptomatic of

a move toward wholesale socialism

– or worse – in America, as

increasing numbers of citizens get

sucked into dependency on government

and relinquish their individual

rights and responsibility in

the process, will see the Court as

one of their last hopes to stop that


Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas,

one of those in the courtroom last

week, put it thus: “As government

grows, individual freedom shrinks.

That’s what this case is all about.”

Those who believe it is the

government’s responsibility to

provide for the health needs of itscitizens, and end the $43 billion-ayear

cost-shifting of free care provided

the uninsured by taxes and

rising insurance rates, will see the

Court – or at least its five-justice

“conservative” majority – as the

major hindrance to solving that


Thus we have the questions:

Can Congress compel individuals

to buy health insurance, especially

with the threat of a financial penalty

if they fail to do so? Can Congress

threaten to withhold funding

of free basic health services for the

poorest and the disabled – Medicaid

– to punish states that refuse to

implement Obamacare?

The Court’s decision will likely

focus quite narrowly on whether

Obamacare is supported by the

Commerce clause of the Constitution,

the Tenth Amendment, which

empowers Congress to regulate

interstate commerce. Obamacare

opponents say that, though it gives

the government power to regulate

existing commerce, it does not give

Congress power to compel people

to enter commerce – to force them

to purchase something regardless

of their personal preferences. Supporters

say that it is constitutional

under the Commerce Clause generally, under the Necessary and Proper

Clause of the Commerce Clause

(also known as the “elastic clause,”

which allows the U.S. government

to “make all laws which shall be

necessary and proper for carrying

into execution the foregoing powers,

and all other powers vested by

this constitution”) and under Congress’

power to tax.

Though the Affordable

Healthcare Act was formulated by

the Obama Administration, it was

approved by Congress, over loud

protests from dissenting members.

The Supreme Court’s decision will

be final and will set a precedent

that will likely be heard loudly.

No matter what it is, the decision

will be controversial. If it is

upheld, civil disobedience, lawsuits

and the inefficiencies of government

management may result.

Polls have shown that a majority of

Americans actually oppose Obamacare.

Then, if only the individual

mandate is struck down, how workable

would the remainder of the

law be? If the entire law is struck

down, what to do about the problems

that prompted its creation in

the first place? Today’s world of

medicine is indeed excruciatingly

unaffordable for many.

The other point to remember

here is the role the Court is playing

in the existing controversy, the

battle between those who oppose

Big Government and those who

see government as the solution to

our problems.

This case should mark a turning

point in America’s political and

social history, but the upcoming

November election will be even

more significant. The Supreme

Court’s six men and three women

range in age between 51 and 79.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 79, appointed

by President Clinton, is the oldest,

with Antonin Scalia and Anthony

Kennedy close behind, at 76.

The justices are appointed for

life, or until they resign, and the

likelihood of one or more stepping

down before the end of the next

presidential term, if not this one, is


The current Court is divided

between four conservative justices,

of whom Scalia is one, four

liberals, including Ginsberg, and a

swing vote – Kennedy.

It does not take political genius

to see how the next elected president

– whether it be Baruch Obama

or someone else – will affect not

only the legislative direction of our

nation, but the makeup of the U.S.

Supreme Court, the final arbiter of

whether laws stand or fall in the

face of the U.S. Constitution.