Supreme Court: Left and Right on ACA

Steve O'Keefe

Supreme Court: Left and Right on ACA

April 3, 2012

Click on image to play video. Peter Robinson (left) with Richard Epstein (center) and John Yoo (right) on Uncommon Knowledge, from the Hoover Institute and National Review Online.

As the country awaits a Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), court watchers have been speculating which way the justices will swing -- left or right? We call your attention to two articulate assessments of the court, one from the left and the other from the right.

From the right, Peter Robinson, host of Uncommon Knowledge for the Hoover Institute, brought together jurist Richard Epstein and John Yoo to discuss the merits of the case in a series of videos for National Review Online. The first session is 11 minutes long and moves at a steady clip.

In the discussion, Yoo laments that Justice Anthony Kennedy moved to the center when Sandra Day O'Connor left the court. Yoo says Kennedy is sensitive to issues of the feds vs. the states. Epstein echoed that this court is more concerned with the rights of states than with those of individuals.

On the left of the political dial is the Brookings Institution's William Galston, a professor at the University of Maryland and former policy staffer for President Bill Clinton. Galston maps the views of conservative justices in an insightful piece for The New Republic, noting that it is tempting to assume liberals on the court:

...will favor the individual mandate, conservatives will oppose it, case closed. But that's hardly ever the right way to look at the Court, and it's certainly wrong now.

Galston points to subtle shadings of opinion among conservative justices--the difference, for example, between Scalia and Thomas in their respective deference to precedent. Galston suggests that Chief Justice John Roberts' vote should not be assumed to land with the conservatives:

[I]t's possible to imagine Roberts joining with the liberals for the sake of preserving the institutional reputation of the Court, while assigning himself the majority decision so he can write the narrowest possible opinion upholding the mandate.

From both the left and the right, court observers think the case will be decided on the question of whether the mandate is a power reserved to states and thus denied to the federal government.

Source: "Obamacare & the Supreme Court with Richard Epstein & John Yoo: Chapter 1 of 5," National Review Online, Jan. 23, 2012.
Source: "Why the Supreme Court Justices Won't Be Crudely Political When They Rule on Obamacare," The New Republic, March 29, 2012.
Image courtesy of the Hoover Institute and Uncommon Knowledge. Used under Fair Use: Commentary."

Steve O'Keefe is a freelance writer, author and book editor.