Alex Brandon, Associated Press
As a result of the weak reasoning offered by the majority of the Supreme Court in the Obamacare case, it is now clear Congress can do anything if it merely attaches a penalty that the Court can redefine as a tax for non-compliance. For example, if Congress decides that for national security reasons our steel industry needs to be strengthened and the best way to do so is to mandate the purchase of domestically-manufactured cars, that apparently poses no constitutional problem so long as the Court can find a way to call the penalty a tax.
In this case, the plain language of the statute called it a penalty. Proponents of the act went out of their way to make clear it was not a tax. The president said it was "absolutely not a tax." All agreed the purpose was not revenue but coercion, yet the Court discovered it was a tax after all. Even more stunning, the Court held it was not a tax for the purposes of surviving one legal challenge, but was a tax for surviving another.
Supreme Court cases become important not for the immediate issue decided, but for the precedent established. For many years we have thought the Commerce Clause was the broadest source of congressional power. Seven of the nine justices thought Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause, but the court found the taxing power to be an even broader source of power.
Hopefully this will be the worst decision Chief Justice Roberts ever authors.
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