By Kasra Kangarloo

WASHINGTON (MNI) – The Supreme Court Thursday upheld the individual
mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act by a vote of five-to-four, on
the grounds that the mandate functions as a tax and falls within the
constitutional powers of the Congress.

The portion of the bill expanding the federal Medicaid program was
also voted unconstitutional by a vote of five-to-four.

The most important distinction made by the court relates to the
power of Congress to “regulate commerce,” as defined in the Commerce
Clause of the Constitution. The court ruled that the mandate cannot be
enforced under the Commerce Clause because it forces an individual to
participate in a market — the market for health insurance, in this
case.

In short, the Court ruled that Congress can only regulate the
commerce of an individual when he or she is already active within that
market.

“The Framers [of the Constitution] knew the difference between
doing something and doing nothing,” the Court’s statement said. “They
gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it.”

The Court simultaneously ruled that the mandate could be accurately
defined as a tax, since an individual would be required to pay a fine if
he or she failed to purchase insurance, thus placing it within the
powers of Congress.

“The federal government [is given] considerable influence even in
areas where it cannot directly regulate,” Justice John Roberts wrote in
his opinion statement, “it may enact a tax on activity that it cannot
authorize, forbid, or otherwise control.”

Voting for the motion were Justices John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor,
Elena Kagan, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Voting against the motion
were Justices Anotnin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence
Thomas.

The core of the dissenting statement argues that the law as
currently written does not actually describe the mandate as a “tax,” and
that by ruling to uphold the mandate the Court has effectively inserted
such an interpretation into the law.

“To say that the individual mandate merely imposes a tax is not to
interpret the statute but to rewrite it,” the dissenting statement said.
“We have no doubt that Congress knew precisely what it was doing when it
rejected an earlier version of this legislation that imposed a tax.”

The Medicaid portion of the bill was voted unconstitutional because
it provides the federal government with a power to penalize the budgets
of states that choose not to participate in the program, which the
statement describes as “economic dragooning that leaves the states with
no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion.”

–Kasra Kangarloo is a reporter for Need to Know News

** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **

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