On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Virginia's request to put its lawsuit against President Obama's health-care reform law on a judicial fast track. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had asked for the case to go directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the rest of the appeals process, so the justices would have time before the law is implemented to rule whether health-care reform — and its requirement for individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014 — is unconstitutional. Here, four predictions on what the Supreme Court's decision means for the fate of the president's signature legislative achievement:
1. Kagan won't bow out
"The rejection of Cuccinelli's effort to short-circuit the process represents a small but welcomed victory for the law's defenders," says Sam Stein at The Huffington Post. "The more important win, however, can be read in between the lines of the ruling." Justice Elena Kagan weighed in on Cuccinelli's request, which means she won't recuse herself because of her past work as President Obama's solicitor general. The fact that she "sees little downside — ethically or politically — to rule on the topic" means the health law's advocates will have another sympathetic pair of ears on the case.
2. The issue will be a hot topic in 2012
With various challenges working through the appeals process already, the Supreme Court should get the case by the summer of 2012, says Moe Lane at RedState. That means that no matter what the court decides, health-care reform is certain to be "a burning issue in the 2012 presidential election." The White House apparently thinks this will work in Obama's favor, but it should consider its abysmal record predicting popular opinion. In fact, keeping challenges to this unpopular law front and center will help the GOP immensely.
3. Liberals won't be able to accuse the court of playing politics
The Supreme Court has just insulated itself against "any unnecessary fire for political motivations" when it finally does make its ruling, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. This way it can take its time, make a decision based on the merits of the case, and liberals won't have a leg to stand on if they cry foul. The move won't delay the lawsuits much, anyway. "With the cases almost certainly moving quickly enough as it is, they can afford to wait for the processes to play out."
4. It's all still in the hands of one justice
Nothing the Supreme Court just did changes anything, says Bryan Preston at Pajamas Media. "The fate of ObamaCare and the government’s asserted power to require Americans to purchase a product or pay a fine still rest in the hands of the mercurial Justice Anthony Kennedy." If he sides with conservatives on the divided court, Obama's signature legislative achievement is toast. If he tilts left, call your insurance agent and get out your checkbook.