Smith opines on SCOTUS decision, election
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
"I didn't see this coming; nobody saw this coming," noted United States Congressman Lamar Smith during an interview the morning of Saturday, June 30. He referred, of course, to a Supreme Court decision released Thursday, June 28, that narrowly upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - aka Obamacare.
In the 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative appointed to the bench by former President George W. Bush, cast the swing vote, siding with the more liberal members of the court.
"We envisioned a thousand scenarios, and this was not one of them," Smith continued. "Everyone was caught off-guard. It was a total surprise and shock."
In Roberts' written opinion, the chief justice failed to find Constitutional the individual mandate that every American must purchase healthcare insurance or face monetary penalties. As argued by the Obama Administration, forcing people to purchase health insurance would have been allowed under the commerce clause. However, by deeming the individual mandate - and penalties - a tax, then, according to Roberts, the entire healthcare act was Constitutional because Congress has the power to tax the American people.
The day of the much-anticipated decision, Smith had issued a statement, saying, in part, "While millions of Americans are disappointed by today's decision, Congress will not be deterred in our commitment to repeal Obamacare. The individual mandate may have been found to be constitutional as a tax, but that doesn't make it good policy for the American people."
In the interview, Smith said that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been considered by many to be as the swing vote against the individual mandate, instead wrote a strong dissent. In his opinion, written jointly with the conservative justices, Kennedy decried that by upholding the healthcare act, the Supreme Court had essentially "imposed a tax through judicial legislation."
"The Supreme Court decision not only upheld bad policy, but it also set a dangerous precedent about the power of the federal government," Smith said. "Never before in our nation's history has the federal government required people to purchase a good or service simply because they live in the United States - until now.
"Part of living in a free society means having the freedom to choose not to do something. Unfortunately, this ruling gives the federal government too much power over the daily lives of Americans. The next step could very well be the federal government taxing people for not buying a particular kind of car. This decision invites Congress to invoke taxes to force citizens to purchase other services."
According to Smith, Roberts will offer no further explanation of his decision other than those expressed in his opinion. "In the future, he will not add to or give specifics that elaborate on his thinking," Smith said. "For that we'll have to go back to his words. However, I don't think there's been an adequate explanation of how people can be taxed for not taking an action."
Smith speculated that by calling the penalty attached to the individual mandate a tax, Roberts opened the door to more discussions on the healthcare legislation. "Politically, by labeling the mandate a tax, Obamacare becomes the largest tax hike in history. The typical American family will be forced to pay $1,000 to $2,000 more annually for their healthcare insurance. Now, it becomes a campaign issue," Smith said.
He continued, "Chief Justice Roberts is a brilliant man. I like to know what he knows that I don't. He might have been saying, 'If you don't like it, Congress must change it, not the Supreme Court'."
Doing that, Smith maintained, will depend on an administration change in the November General Election. "If the American people want to choose their own doctors and healthcare plans, then they must choose another president. If the American people want to overturn this ruling, they must show up at the polls in November and elect a new president and members of Congress who oppose Obamacare."
Based on history and public opinion polls, Smith gives a "better than 50-50 chance" that Republicans will prevail in the upcoming election.
According to Smith, two-thirds of the public feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, which was "the same level of discontent that preceded Jimmy Carter's defeat."
Additionally, for 40 months unemployment has been at 8 percent or higher and there has been weak economic growth.
"Also, the typical American family's income has decreased under the present administration," Smith said. "Historically, no other president has been re-elected with these kinds of economic indicators."
He also referenced President Barack Obama's string of broken promises to the American people, such as promising to cut the national deficit, but instead doubling it. "The legislative CBO (Congressional Budget Office), a non-partisan agency, indicated that Obamacare will increase the cost of healthcare $1.7 trillion in over the next 10 years," Smith said.
"The president failed to deliver on his promises and act responsibly in bad economic times. That's why I support Mitt Romney and his record," Smith concluded.