ARLINGTON, Virginia, June 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While perhaps rightly earning the ire of conservatives, Justice Roberts’ role as the fifth vote upholding the federal health care law is less surprising in light of his reputation for strict constructionism, according to one pro-life legal expert.
John Jakubczyk, an attorney and National Right to Life representative for Arizona who has been active in the pro-life movement for 36 years, told LifeSiteNews.com that he was “disappointed that [Roberts] went to such lengths to find a means of upholding the statute.”
But the reasons Roberts did pose for his decision were actually conservative ones, said Jacubczyk, who had just finished reading the opinion at the National Right to Life Convention 2012 in Arlington, Virginia.
Roberts’ majority opinion on Thursday rejected the idea that the individual mandate was a power granted to Congress under the Commerce clause, but upheld it based on its possible interpretation as a tax. However, said Jacubczyk, Congress had passed the bill with the intention that the Commerce clause justified the mandate.
Justice Roberts wrote near the beginning of the majority opinion that the “permissive reading of these powers is explained in part by a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the Nation’s elected leaders.”
Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.
Jacubczyk said Roberts’ decision was understandable given a strict constructionist mindset: “[Roberts] was reading this thing in the light most likely to hold it, which is what a conservative judge normally does with a statute. So his very conservatism led him there.”
“As a lawyer, I can rationally understand his steps,” said Jacubczyk. However, he said, “I think he stretches this power to tax a little too far.”
“The notion that we are a federal government of limited powers does not mean we have an unlimited power to tax. And I think that’s what the implication is,” he said. “There’s an old saying that goes, the power to tax is the power to destroy.”
The attorney noted that Roberts’ finding against the bill’s Medicaid expansion was, in comparison, much less lenient.
“He finds that the Medicaid provisions that deals with forcing states to comply, or having all their Medicaid funds withheld, is unconstitutional. So he is recognizing this relationship of federalism between the states and the federal government,” said Jacubczyk. “Why he didn’t just use that same reasoning with respect to the individual, is disconcerting.”
The ongoing constitutional challenge against the bill, in the form of lawsuits against the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate forcing religious employers to insure employees’ birth control, is a different matter, said Jacubczyk.
That mandate could well be shot down by the Supreme Court because the HHS mandate is an administrative act “that goes far beyond what the Affordable Care Act claims,” rather than a Congressional act, he said - if the administration isn’t voted out of office by then.
“We would hopefully have a new HHS secretary anyway,” he said.
Meanwhile, the decision has created a “perfect storm” from a political perspective, as the individual mandate affects a large swathe of the population.
“People of all stripes who see this as being an intrusion upon our private lives need to stand up and say, excuse me, but we’re not going to re-elect the current administration,” he said.
“The question is, will the people respond? And they will get the government they deserve.”
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