By Todd Shepherd and Mark Lisheron | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers expressed disappointment with Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, saying congress has “approved the stick and not the carrot,” but added there is a silver lining in the court’s ruling regarding Medicaid.
Suthers, a Republican serving his second term as the state’s top enforcement officer, was one of the 27 attorneys general nationwide who joined the lawsuit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“I take my responsibility to safeguard the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions very seriously. Protecting federalism is arguably the most important role for state attorneys general. I am proud to have been a part of this litigation, in spite of the disappointing result,” Suthers said in a written statement.
In one of the most highly anticipated Supreme Court rulings since Bush v. Gore, the high court determined that the controversial individual mandate to buy health insurance was a legitimate exercise of congressional taxing authority.
Suthers noted a “silver lining” that opponents to the bill across the country are closely examining with regards to Medicaid, and an individual state’s obligation to the program.
“The Court held that the federal government cannot hold the entirety of a state’s federal Medicaid funding hostage if the state chooses not to expand its Medicaid program. This means, at least, that there are limits on the federal government’s power to compel states to make policy,” Suthers said.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled with the states and against the individual mandate and against the state and Congress’ right to force the states to expand Medicaid.
“The threatened loss of over 10 percent of a State’s overall budget is economic dragooning that leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion,” today’s ruling says.
The reasoning for upholding the Affordable Care Act as a tax rather than a mandate is certain to be the subject of furious legal argument.
The court’s decision refers to the mandate as a “shared responsibility payment” to the federal government. Failure to make such a payment results in a penalty collected by the Internal Revenue Service in the same way as a tax, the ruling says.
The majority made clear that an individual mandate as outlined in the Affordable Care Act would have otherwise illegitimately forced individuals to engage in commerce by buying health insurance.
“Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle.”
Instead, the decision does what Congress failed to do in drafting the bill: find the reasoning for its health insurance requirement on the grounds that Congress possesses the power to “lay and collect taxes.”
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