Five Surprises From the Health Ruling

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Written By admin at Monday, July 2nd, 2012


Still reeling from yesterday’s health ruling? Here are five things that took us by surprise:

1) Justice Anthony Kennedy. He was supposed to be “The Decider,” in the words of Time magazine’s excellent cover profile. He wasn’t — the law’s individual mandate would have survived regardless of what he did. To be sure, if Justice Kennedy had agreed with the liberal justices, the mandate would have gained more secure rooting in the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

2) Chief Justice John Roberts. Even Democratic-appointed judges in lower courts weren’t buying the Obama administration’s argument that the mandate qualified as a tax. The chief did.

3) Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Conservative Republican-appointed judges in lower courts who wanted to junk the law didn’t see a problem with its expansion of Medicaid. Justices Breyer and Kagan did. The two liberal stalwarts joined the conservatives in a 7-2 ruling saying the expansion was coercive and states should be given the chance to opt out of it without punishment.

4) Justice Antonin Scalia. As the senior justice on the jointly written dissent, Justice Scalia had the right to read it from the bench. Instead, he yielded to Justice Kennedy. The joint signing was itself out of the ordinary – usually dissents are signed by one justice and joined by others.

5) The timing. Court watchers expected the ruling to come around 10:15 a.m., after two other decisions were announced. But the court decided to punt on one of those two cases, and the chief justice took just a few seconds to say so. So the first word of the ruling came around 10:07 a.m.

How about the outcome itself? That wasn’t a surprise to some: Former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and Scotusblog impresario Tom Goldstein were among those who correctly forecast the bottom-line result– mandate upheld.

Twitter: @PLandersDC

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