In Blow to Gov. Tom Corbett, Health Care Law Upheld [UPDATED]
Shortly after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, several states’ attorneys general jumped on a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. Then-Pennsylvania Attorney General, now-Governor Tom Corbett was one of them, joining the federal lawsuit on March 23, the day the law was signed.
He was amongst attorneys general from Utah, Texas, South Dakota, North Dakota, South Carolina, Nebraska, Alabama, Washington and Florida in the case. Corbett’s spokesman, Kevin Harley, told the Allentown Morning Call that he was taking action to “’protect the citizens of Pennsylvania whose rights will be violated when health care reform is signed into law.”
A Supreme Court decision, partially stemming from that challenge, was issued today, and the law is constitutional.
The original lawsuit Corbett joined argued the federal government’s power-grab was illegal because it exceeded Congress’ ability to “’regulate commerce…among several states.” And during his campaign for governor, he even wrote a fundraising letter saying he was “leading the fight against Obamacare,” adding the president’s plan would “impose government-run socialized medicine on Pennsylvania and her citizens.”
Corbett is not the only Pennsylvanian who stood against the law, though. Back in March of this year, the same day the Senate passed Voter ID legislation, a state Senate panel approved a proposal that’d make the healthcare mandate, the most controversial part of Obamacare, illegal in the commonwealth. In order to put that legislation into action, it’d have to be put into the state Constitution, which requires it be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and pass a statewide voter referendum—and the odds of that all happening are slim.
Similarly, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled back in September that the individual mandate was unconstitutional after a lawsuit was brought by a York couple.
And—this is weird—Pennsylvania recently won a $9 million grant from the federal Health and Human Services agency to “provide early childhood support and counseling services for young mothers and families,” which was part of the Affordable Care Act. The Corbett Administration kept the money noting Obamacare was the law, whether the governor liked it or not. And good thing they did.
The healthcare law and its most controversial part, the individual mandate, was spawned by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the early 90s, and enacted by then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who stopped taking credit for the popular law when he decided he could maybe be president. This means Romney now not only has to run his campaign on overturning a constitutional law—but one he inspired. In 2007, Romney called the individual mandate upheld as a tax “ultimate conservativism.” And we’re pretty sure he wasn’t being ironic. But who knows?
Today’s announcement was a weird one to say the least. Creditable news organizations got this thing wrong on both Twitter and their main sites during today’s lead up to the decision.
Most notable was CNN, who wrote the individual mandate had been struck down on their main page. The Philadelphia Inquirer, PhillyNews and Philly.com’s Twitter feeds also falsely claimed the mandate had been struck down with the attention-grabbing, now-embarrassing “BREAKING” in all caps. Son, this is what expected breaking news is going to be like from now on.
UPDATE: Tom Corbett released a statement this afternoon on the ruling, though did not take questions. Here is some of that statement:
“It appears that the Supreme Court agreed with the lawsuit brought by myself and 12 other Attorneys General finding Obamacare unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, however they did uphold the law under Congress’ taxing authority,” Corbett said.
“Despite the President’s repeated assertions that this was not a tax, the Supreme Court today ruled that it is in fact a tax,” Corbett said. “Not only is it a tax, but it may turn out to be one of the largest tax increases in the history of our nation. It is a tax on our citizens that they cannot afford. It is a tax that hits our small businesses the hardest and will kill job growth.
“This law will raise healthcare costs for our families, our employers and our state,” Corbett said. “This is a burden to all of us who work every day to recover from the recession.
“While I am disappointed with this ruling, respect for the law and for the process of the law — even when we disagree — is part of our democracy. My administration will do all we can to ensure the negative impact of this law affects the lives of Pennsylvanians as little as possible,” Corbett said.