After three days of intense debate, President Obama's sweeping overhaul of the health-care system is now in the hands of nine black-robed justices. The Supreme Court's conservative judges clearly expressed their doubts about the law's constitutionality, leaving Obama's supporters fretting about ObamaCare's fate and the president's re-election chances. Meanwhile, liberals are warning that a decision by a conservative court to strike down a Democratic president's top domestic priority would hurt the court's credibility, cementing the perception that the law's scales are being tipped by politics, not justice. Is the Supreme Court's integrity at stake?
Yes. A blow to ObamaCare is a blow to the court: If the court's five conservatives take ObamaCare down, critics will accuse them "of rigging the game and covering their power play with constitutional doublespeak," says Glenn Thrush at Politico. The decision "will further erode the ideal of the court as an impartial arbiter," and make a mockery of Chief Justice John Roberts' claim that the court is a neutral "umpire" calling balls and strikes.
"Roberts Court on trial"
And it would represent judicial activism at its worst: The ObamaCare arguments plainly revealed that the "conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternate legislature," says E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post. Apparently, they've forgotten that "legislative power is supposed to rest in our government's elected branches." If the Supremes strike down ObamaCare, the court "will prove conclusively that it sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws." Instead of giving us justice, it will "deliver ideology."
"Judicial activists in the Supreme Court"
Roberts won't allow the court's reputation to suffer: The chief justice is fully aware that a "root-and-branch assault" on ObamaCare will "thrust the court into the center of presidential politics," says William Galston at The New Republic. Don't be surprised if Roberts upholds the law just "for the sake of preserving the institutional reputation of the court." But even if the court strikes ObamaCare down, Roberts will likely craft the decision "with an eye to minimizing the damage," and take pains to issue assurances that the court's position "does not reflect ideological hostility to expansive government action."
"Why the Supreme Court justices won't be crudely political when they rule on ObamaCare"