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Republican Senators' Effort Fails To Repeal Health Law

Publication Date: 
February 03, 2011
USA Today
Kelly Kennedy

Professor Hank Greely and Assistant Professor David Freeman Engstrom are quoted by USA Today in the following story on efforts to repeal the 2010 health care law. Both professors responded to the question of whether or not current politics would influence the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the health care law. USA Today's Kelly Kennedy reports:

An effort Wednesday by Republican senators to repeal last year's health care law failed as expected, but some political watchers say the vote may help influence the courts that will ultimately decide the law's fate.

The Senate voted 51-47, along party lines, on an amendment that would have repealed the health care law.

The House of Representatives voted to repeal the health care law last month. The Senate approved a separate amendment that eliminates a health law provision requiring small businesses to file tax paperwork when they pay a vendor more than $600.


Henry Greely, a law professor at Stanford University, said it seemed unlikely the politics would sway the Supreme Court justices because "the political opposition to the bill has long been clear." But, "I do think that, to some extent, justices might be influenced by how controversial an issue is. This one is very controversial."

He cited other cases that seemed influenced by politics, culture and controversy, including the Pentagon Papers, which allowed The New York Times to publish classified documents about the Vietnam War, and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which ended school segregation.


David Freeman Engstrom, also at Stanford, said the judges in this case need to think beyond health care because their decision could have implications in other areas.

"There are so many things that the government does where the policies haven't been challenged, but could be based on this decision," he said.

Engstrom said he has a "hopeful" view that the judges hold themselves to a different standard when they make decisions, but he also said they have a "judicial ideology" that is part of the reason they were appointed in the first place — it aligns with the political ideology of the president who appointed them.