U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was widely quoted last week in the landmark decision upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as constitutional, while stating, “We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders,” and further declaring, “Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
The same day, Washington Post opinion writer George F. Will thought the majority decision and Roberts’ leadership brilliant. “Conservatives won a substantial victory Thursday,” the noted columnist opined.
The presidential election this fall will provide the next step in the life of this law and any reshaping based on the will of the people.
The debate — when it is true to the definition of debate — has served to show leaders where current health care is impaired.
And the debate is a battle joined. While the suit before the court was brought by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the American Medical Association, Main Street Alliance, National Association for the Self Employed and the Small Business Majority have all supported the law. Businesses have endured more than a decade of double-digit increases in providing benefits for employees, and costs continue to spiral to (and pass) a full 20 percent of the GDP.
The debate undoubtedly centers on what Chief Justice Roberts declared is a tax, even while President Barack Obama denies it.
Sadly, many conservative leaders last week missed the thoughtful and artful frame of the ruling and opened mouth to insert foot. To a person, it served as the day Republicans came unglued and fast and furiously served the television cameras with all manner of ill-conceived comment. That included every Republican legislator serving West Michigan in U.S. and State houses. It is for that reason it was a truly sad day for conservatives who offered nothing more than nonsensical commentary — once again — without reasoned delivery.
It was no less an unforgiveable action than that perpetrated by major network news teams more concerned with being “first” than with providing accurate reporting.
The herd mentality of looking so narrowly at a single element (the commerce clause) is an error in judgment perpetrated over and again in courts and in heated arguments that only serve to boil out reasoned thinking.
What we might all expect for legislators in the continuation of this debate is fundamentally thoughtful commentary. Roberts showed how. So, too, did those practicing the true eloquence of law and interpretation.