The big news this past week has been the Supreme Court’s three day hearing on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care bill (“Obamacare”). While the final ruling on this matter is not expected until later this summer, many are already predicting what the Court will do and how this will affect medical care for U.S. citizens.
It is thought that the more conservative judges, those on the right, are ready to rule the program unconstitutional and void the entire law. However, some hope that between now and the ruling Justices will come more “center” and approach the law in a more moderate sense.
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. has already pleaded with the Justices to exercise judicial restraint, aiming his plea at Justice Kennedy, who many expect to be a key vote, perhaps siding more with his liberal colleagues even though he is often grouped with the conservative Justices. According to Verilli, “The Congress struggled with the issue of how to deal with this profound problem of 40 million people without health care for many years, and it made a judgment.” He feels it is not the place of the Supreme Court to overturn this decision, but instead it is the duty of the voters to change the plan if in fact they feel it needs changing. He has asked the Court not to become a part of this partisan battle.
Verilli’s plea is interesting, as it appears he is asking the Court to refrain acting in a manner which is inherent in their existence: to ensure that the government does not violate the constitutional rights of its citizens. It is the duty of the United States Supreme Court to hear challenges on the constitutionality of laws and determine whether they are proper or not. To ask the Court then to shirk this duty is to negate the system of checks and balances instituted to protect U.S. citizens. It does not matter how long the government has wrestled with the issue; if the law violates constitutional rights, then it should be struck down.
Verilli is correct in that this should not be a partisan issue for the Court. It is their responsibility to analyze the law and rule on its constitutionality without regard to whether it was Democrats or Republicans who instituted it. The Court needs to analyze the law and decide only one issue: is this health care law constitutional?
We all have our opinions on whether Obamacare is right or wrong for the country. This is not an expression of either my support or opposition to the law; this is merely an expression of my belief that the Supreme Court’s duty is to protect citizens from having their constitutional rights infringed upon. It is Congress’ duty to create laws that pass constitutional muster (no matter the subject matter) and the Supreme Court’s duty to keep Congress in check. This is the basis of the United States government; it has been the basis for hundreds of years and it should not change now.
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