Two very important decisions were made in Washington, D.C. today, by two different branches of the government. One of them was overshadowed by the other, but that doesn’t make the other any less serious. The Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in favor of the Affordable Care Act. I can’t say that I completely understand how they came to their decision, but I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty of pundits and experts who will make their own attempts at explaining it to us – for days. The Justices interpreted the Commerce Clause and the powers of Congress to impose taxes in a way that has probably set new precedent and will provide law scholar and students with hours of debate.
The individual mandate was declared unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, but Congress may tax – penalize, if you may – those Americans who do not purchase their own health insurance. I’m baffled by that reasoning but, then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Court’s logic has been more than a little confusing and convoluted. I will include one statement made by Chief Justice Roberts found in the decision.
“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.”
That’s absolutely right. It is not the job of the Court to decide on wisdom or fairness. That’s the role of the two other branches. I hope that they get it right.
The other decision today came from Capitol Hill, where Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. That’s not a minor issue, but the coverage of it by those who provide us with the 24 hour news cycle were a little tied up, trying to grab the scoop at the Supreme Court – badly, too, as they tripped up on a few details in their own little “Dewey Defeats Truman” moments.
The vote in Congress was with regard to the infamous “Fast and Furious” gun-walking debacle. The President invoked executive privilege, citing that some of the documents requested were a matter of National security. That may be. It may also be that we will never know. Presidents have invoked privilege in the past, so this is nothing new. The problem that it causes is in how it looks to the rest of America. Ronald Reagan exerted his rights by refusing to hand over his personal diaries with regard to Iran-Contra. Richard Nixon used the privilege during the Watergate scandal. Bill Clinton negotiated a form of executive privilege with Kenneth Starr relative to the Monica Lewinsky problem. George W. Bush exercised the privilege regarding investigations of Janet Reno, the FBI and Karl Rove.
Since Nixon, Presidents have used the privilege over 25 times. The outcomes of some these investigations have been disappointing to the Country, and have resulted in criminal charges, as well as impeachment proceedings. I don’t know how this one will end. I just hope that our nation doesn’t have to crawl back from one more scandal. I don’t think we could take another one.