And at 10 a.m. sharp inside the Court on Monday morning, the Marshal will bang her gavel, the 400 lucky spectators will rise, and the nine justices will filter in through partings in the courtroom’s floor-to-ceiling red curtains in groups of three.
Over the course of three days, the justices will hear six hours of oral arguments to weigh the challenges to key aspects of the Affordable Care Act that have percolated through the lower courts in the two years since President Obama signed the 2400-page health care reform bill into law.
At the heart of the challenges is the law’s “individual mandate,” which, starting in 2014, requires virtually all Americans to hold health insurance or else pay a penalty on their tax returns. The challengers contend that Congress cannot constitutionally compel an uninsured person to purchase a product in the private market. The government says the mandate is within Congress’ broad power to regulate interstate commerce because the uninsured’s inevitable consumption of health care services helped create the nationwide problem of unaffordable premiums that the Affordable Care Act seeks to solve.
It was foolish of Democrats not to embrace health care reform, and wear it as a badge of honor, from the beginning (yeah it wasn’t what we wanted, but it has some very good things that few of us can name). In the same way Democrats didn’t embrace the stimulus, they did the same (or didn’t do the same) on HCR. And all the while, the Republicans simply lied in a vacuum, and just like with the stimulus the public believed the lie. Which is usually what happens when only one side shows up to a debate.
What’s most disturbing to me is how several of us saw this coming. We saw how Democrats were refusing to fight back against GOP lies on issue after issue, and we warned that it would come back to haunt us. And it has. The Republicans should be getting the blame for the poor economy, they were the ones who demanded a smaller stimulus. From day one the President should have warned that growth would be less because of the GOP. Instead, the Republicans are actually claiming that the stimulus created unemployment, rather than curtailed it. Just like a health care law that provides more people less-expensive coverage is labeled “death panels.” If you don’t fight back from day one, if you don’t keep fighting the lies, the lies stick.
Some of us saw this coming, and we were belittled as the whiney professional fringe left. How’d that work out for you?