On Thursday, an unusual Supreme Court majority of “one” — Chief JusticeJohn G. Roberts Jr.— found that the healthcare law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional under the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. But, surprise, the mandate is constitutional as a tax.
This strange reasoning, not fully embraced even by the four concurring justices, handed judicial conservatives the most recent in a long parade of disappointments. No matter how controversial, contradictory and complex the ruling is, it represents a major legal victory for the Obamaadministration and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act.
Roberts closed the open-ended commerce clause door to sweeping federal regulatory authority over just about anything. This is something conservatives could have embraced — had he not then opened an even wider door that expanded the taxing powers of Congress.