Unlike Congress, the White House, or our intelligence services, the Supreme Court is very, very good at keeping information confidential. That’s why, as it prepares to rule on President Obama’s signature piece of legislation – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or just Obamacare) – justices and clerks have been walking around with zipped lips.
That’s also why those of us out here in the regular world have been left both in suspense and a little bit of frustration. It seems mind-boggling that in the 21st century, with cable news, cell phones, and the internet, pretty much no one knows what tomorrows verdict will be. I myself felt like I was running into a brick wall today as each article I read basically regurgitated the same information, trying to pass off little extra details as new signs that the justices were leaning towards a conclusion.
So instead of recycling the same stale news scraps, let’s take a look at the three most likely possibilities for tomorrow’s verdict (which will be available around 10 o’clock a.m. on scotusblog.com) and examine what they’ll mean for the President, Republicans, and, of course, the American taxpayer:
- The law is totally upheld: In this situation, the country pays about $2 trillion over the next decade, Medicare gets cut by $500 billion, health insurance premiums go up… you’re gonna have a bad time! That is, of course, assuming the GOP doesn’t figure out a way to leverage the ruling into a senate majority and the Oval Office. Think Tea Party.
- The individual mandate (the “you have to buy insurance” part) is struck down: This is considered by many to be the most likely outcome. If the vote is 5-4, expect Democrats to complain that the Roberts Court is partisan, biased, just voting on party lines, whatever. They will, of course, ignore the fact that all the liberals on the court also would have voted on party lines. Anyway, congress would basically be unable to fund the bill without the mandate, and it wouldn’t be that effective anyway. If this castration of Obama’s legacy comes to pass, it will be a very symbolic victory for conservatives.
- The whole law is struck down: See that last line of the above paragraph? Double or maybe triple it. While it might make a lot of Republican activists go back home and stop making phone calls, I don’t see this ruling helping the Democrats in any way. If Obama (a Harvard law professor, by the way) can’t pass a constitutionally sound health care reform bill, I think his base will be disappointed – and his lukewarm supporters might begin to reconsider their options.