[Editor's Note: On Thursday June 28, 2012 the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 ruling. The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented.]
Is Obamacare Substantially Constitutional? – YES
In the three cases against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (decided June 28, 2012), the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 majority decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, JD, held that:
"The Government advances two theories for the proposition that Congress had constitutional authority to enact the individual mandate. First, the Government argues that Congress had the power to enact the mandate under the Commerce Clause... Second, the Government argues that if the commerce power does not support the mandate, we should nonetheless uphold it as an exercise of Congress's power to tax...
The Framers gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it, and for over 200 years both our decisions and Congress's actions have reflected this understanding. There is no reason to depart from that understanding now...
The individual mandate forces individuals into commerce precisely because they elected to refrain from commercial activity. Such a law cannot be sustained under a clause authorizing Congress to ‘regulate Commerce...
Because the Commerce Clause does not support the individual mandate, it is necessary to turn to the Government's second argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress's enumerated power to 'lay and collect Taxes.' Art. I, §8, cl. 1...
The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."
Akhil Amar, JD, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, and Todd Brewster, Don E. Ackerman Director of Oral History at West Point and Director of the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution, stated in their Mar. 19, 2012 article "Rejecting Affordable Care Act is Rejecting Constitution," available at blog.constitutioncenter.org:
"Next week, while the Republicans continue their search for a candidate to stand against President Obama in the fall election, the president's central legislative triumph – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – will come before the Supreme Court. The justices have the power to declare the law unconstitutional and thereby kill 'Obamacare' before it even leaves the birthing chamber. While some believe that such an outcome would be proper, we disagree. A court decision overturning the Affordable Care Act would be an egregious misreading of the Constitution.
The critics' central constitutional claim is that the 2010 law's individual-mandate provision exceeds Congress' regulatory authority. In essence, this provision requires a broad swath of Americans to procure health insurance conforming to certain federal standards. Those who do not procure this insurance must generally pay a 'penalty' to the IRS.
Had the bill explicitly used the word 'tax' instead of 'penalty,' the fatal flaw of the constitutional challenge would be obvious to all. The Constitution undeniably gives Congress sweeping power to tax. And if Congress can tax a person, and then use that tax money to buy a health-care package for that person's benefit, why can't it simply direct the person to procure the package himself, or else pay a higher tax?...
Once we see that the 'penalty' is a tax and that Congress has the power to tax, the constitutional case against the law collapses.
But even if the law were not a tax, it still easily passes muster as an exercise of a second key power of Congress – the power to regulate interstate commerce...
The federal government represents voters, so it can tax voters and impose mandates on voters, whether these mandates oblige constituents to join militias or buy muskets (as did the Militia Act of 1792, signed into law by President George Washington), to serve on juries, or buy health-care insurance."
[Editor’s Note: Based upon the US Supreme Court deciding on June 28, 2012 that most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was constitutional, ProCon.org has presented this issue as having a clear and obvious Pro (yes) answer and therefore shows the responses in a single column with no opposing perspective.]