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Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law

Publication Date: 
June 28, 2012
National Public Radio
Nina Totenberg

Professor Michael McConnell discusses Chief Justice John Roberts decision to uphold the health care law and why he thinks Roberts opinion was "masterful."

Shock, dismay, relief, confusion all those emotions played out Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-to-4 decision, upholding almost all of President Obama's health care overhaul. The decision to uphold the law, with shifting majorities on different provisions, plus dissents, covered close to 200 pages and provoked initial confusion. Both Fox News and CNN got it wrong, reporting initially that the individual mandate had been struck down. But when the dust cleared, the law labeled derisively by Republicans as "Obamacare" was largely intact.

The legal path to the outcome had been predicted by no one. Indeed, not one of the more than two dozen lower court judges who ruled on the health care law reached the same legal conclusion as the Supreme Court.


"It is true that this is the first time Congress did something like this," Stanford Law professor Michael McConnell said, referring to the novelty of the individual mandate, "but that's why the decision will have a lot of importance. Because if this had been approved, then the precedent would have been set for Congress to do this in any number of areas. So this nips it in the bud."


McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge appointed by the second President Bush, has been a critic of the law. But he called the Roberts opinion "masterful" because it adopted principled limits on congressional power, while at the same time avoiding the charge that the court "was merely being political."