BREAKING: Supreme Court Has Upheld Individual Mandate, Handing Obama Huge Victory on Healthcare Law

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We're listening to the Brian Lehrer show and reading
SCOTUSblog's liveblog as the Supreme Court sits for what will probably be the final time of this term.

And...SCOTUSblog is saying that the mandate has survived as a tax, and that Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the left in this ruling. The Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or "Obamacare," has been ruled constitutional.

Todd Zwillich of the Takeaway is reporting that in front of the Supreme Court building, it's a chaotic scene. "A cheer went up from certain sectors of the crowd, as you can imagine," Zwillich says.

According to Brian Lehrer, Medicaid expansion is "limited, but not invalidated."

More soon.

Update, 10:17: SCOTUS blog says it's very "complicated," but adds, "The bottom line: the entire ACA [Affordable Care Act] is upheld, with the exception that the federal government's power to terminate states' Medicaid funds is narrowly read."

Dissenting: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy! In voting to make the 5-4 decision upholding the law, Roberts was the swing vote!

This is highly unexpected. Very few expected Roberts to be the swing vote in such a case, although there is precedent for a Chief Justice wanting to be in the majority of a case to make sure it doesn't look like he's lost his court in a high stakes case. But Roberts could have been in the majority tossing it out, with Kennedy. Fascinating.

Update, 10:25: SCOTUSblog has this to say about the Medicaid issue:

On the Medicaid issue, a majority of the Court holds that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional but that it w/b unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions.
Also:
The key comment on salvaging the Medicaid expansion is this (from Roberts): "Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding." (p. 55)

One major takeaway: many Americans don't like the ACA (in full), but they do like its parts, and/or desire something more (i.e. a single-payer). Still, unequivocally, this is a win for Obama, regardless of what people think of it. If he'd lost this case, Romney would have made the case (rightly) that the major domestic initiative of Obama's term was a folly. He'd have said Obama wasted all his political capital and would have painted him as Jimmy Carter. Romney will have other charges, but the Carter charge won't stick.

Another takeaway: Paul Clement is having a terrible month. Clement argued numerous conservative cases in federal court in 2012, including DOMA/same-sex marriage cases which have ruled against him. (He's been on all sides of the federal question as he's done so.) Curiously, Clement argued both S.B. 1070 for Arizona against the federal government, and he argued on behalf of the states against the federal government for the ACA. He was far, FAR, FAR better at speaking before the Supremes than Solicitor General Donald Verilli, who gave one of the most piss-poor performances the high court has seen in recent history during the three day hearings about Obamacare.

And Clement still lost, largely, in both S.B. 1070 and the ACA.

Update, 10:40: A final thought before we sign off: often forgotten in this debate are the tens of millions of Americans without insurance. They will not all be covered by the ACA, but tens of millions more will get health insurance within the coming years because of it (including 26 year olds now covered by their parents' insurance and children with pre-existing conditions no longer denied).

Here is the entire Supreme Court law decision on the constitutionality of the Afforable Care Act.

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You can follow staff writer Steven Thrasher on twitter (@steven_thrasher) or reach him by email (sthrasher@villagevoice.com).


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