Four Supreme Court justices in favor of Obama’s plan, four against and one undecided
The Supreme Court heard six hours of oral arguments on President Obama’s health care bill in late March. Numerous cases have been brought against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because of its mandate that requires individuals have their own health insurance.
While opponents of the bill argue that Congress and the president have overstepped their bounds, proponents say that Congress is well within its power granted by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The Supreme Court will issue its final decision in June.
Will Vote to Overturn
John G. Roberts (Chief Justice)
Appointed by: President George W. Bush in 2005
Background: Looking at the previous lower court rulings on this case, judges have voted according to their political affiliation. With few exceptions, every federal justice appointed by a Republican president has ruled against Obama’s health care bill in some form. On the other hand, judges appointed by a Democratic president have overwhelmingly voted to uphold the bill.
Appointed by: President Ronald Reagan in 1986
Background: “If Scalia can be peeled off, he may vote to uphold the law,” said Marc Clauson of Cedarville’s history and government department. “Not because he likes it but because of his deference to a legislature and desire for a political, democratic solution. Scalia might break with the conservatives, but my gut says he will not do that.”
Appointed by: President George H. W. Bush in 1991
Background: Thomas is considered a safe vote for conservatives against the bill. According to the “American Bar Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases,” 100 percent of experts polled believe that Thomas will vote to overturn the health care bill due to its unconstitutionality.
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
Appointed by: George W. Bush in 2006
Projected vote: Vote to overturn
Background: Described by the Cato Institute as a conservative jurist with a “libertarian streak,” Alito is expected to vote that the Affordable Care Act and its “individual mandate” are unconstitutional.
Will Vote to Uphold
Stephen G. Breyer
Appointed by: President Bill Clinton in 1994
Background: Breyer has consistently voted to support Federalism over state’s rights. In the U.S. vs. Lopez case of 1995, the Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision. The case related to Congress’ ability to declare that having firearms in schools was illegal, which the court declared to be out of reach of the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution.
Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing that the Commerce Clause includes the power to regulate local activities so long as they “significantly affect” interstate commerce. The health care bill deals with a similar argument regarding the Commerce Clause, and based on his logic, Breyer is expected to vote to uphold the bill.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Appointed by: President Bill Clinton in 1993
Background: Ginsburg is easily considered the most liberal judge on the Supreme Court. There is no doubt that she will vote to uphold the President’s bill. “I do believe the rest of the conservatives will stay together, as will the liberals,” Clauson said.
Appointed by: President Barack Obama in 2009
Background: As the first justice appointed by Obama, Sotomayor has reliably supported liberal viewpoints in her short time on the bench. Since the health care bill has been such a mainstay of Obama’s administration, she is expected to vote in its favor.
Appointed by: President Barack Obama in 2010
Background: While Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it is mainly considered to be the president’s bill. This puts the Supreme Court in the position directly in opposition of the president.
Some of the judges are more concerned about doing battle with the president, especially since this particular court has never had to do so before. Kagan definitely could be considered one of those judges, and as she was appointed by the president, this puts her in an awkward position. Therefore, Kagan is expected to vote in favor of Obama’s health care act.
Appointed by: President Ronald Reagan in 1988
Background: Kennedy has the most debated opinion of all the justices on the case. Considered by many to be unpredictable, he has been known to side with liberals or conservatives on controversial issues.
“He takes a case by case look at things as they come up before him, as opposed to having a consistent judicial philosophy,” said Professor Mark Smith, director of Cedarville’s Center for Political Studies. “Kennedy doesn’t have a firm view of how the Constitution should be interpreted, which makes him a wild card.”
Based on the case of Bond vs. United States in 2011, where Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion arguing for state’s rights, it can be argued that he will vote against the bill.