The justices aren’t likely to be misled by the reasoning that prompted two of the four federal courts that have ruled on this legislation to invalidate it on the theory that Congress is entitled to regulate only economic “activity,” not “inactivity,” like the decision not to purchase insurance. This distinction is illusory. Individuals who don’t purchase insurance they can afford have made a choice to take a free ride on the health care system. They know that if they need emergency-room care that they can’t pay for, the public will pick up the tab. This conscious choice carries serious economic consequences for the national health care market, which makes it a proper subject for federal regulation.Of course, the argument Tribe likes was presented, considered, and rejected in the 2 federal court cases. It's a perfectly comprehensible argument, but that doesn't make its success in the Supreme Court a sure thing. Acting as if it does, Tribe says "it’s distressing that many assume its fate will be decided by a partisan, closely divided Supreme Court." Oh, you terrible people who fail to bow to the obviousness of one side of a constitutional argument! You compound your sins by falling prey to the upsetting belief that the Supreme Court Justices are politically partisan!
To imagine Justice Scalia would abandon that fundamental understanding of the Constitution’s necessary and proper clause because he was appointed by a Republican president is to insult both his intellect and his integrity.That's not sarcasm. Read the whole thing. You'll see, it's not intentional sarcasm. It might be an attempt to sweet-talk Scalia into using the health-care litigation to score some political neutrality points, but it's not sarcasm. It's more: Ah! What a fine Justice, full of integrity and intellect, I will say Justice Scalia is if he decides this case my way!
Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom many unfairly caricature as the “swing vote,” deserves better as well.Oh! People are sooooo unfair to Justice Kennedy. I, Larry Tribe, will protect him from the scurrilous "swing vote" remarks people make.... when he decides this case my way!
Yes, his opinion in the 5-4 decision invalidating the federal ban on possession of guns near schools is frequently cited by opponents of the health care law.I hope they do a better job of pointing at the Lopez case than that NYT link does. Here's the right link, in case anyone cares.
But that decision in 1995 drew a bright line between commercial choices, all of which Congress has presumptive power to regulate, and conduct like gun possession that is not in itself “commercial” or “economic,” however likely it might be to set off a cascade of economic effects.Drew a bright line, eh? But the line, if you can call it a line, isn't about "commercial choices." That's Tribe's phrase — as he assures us the line is bright! — and what the Court said was "commercial activity" — which is why the argument about the distinction between activity and inactivity has been so important in the health care litigation. Tribe declares lines to be bright precisely at the point when he is shedding darkness. (If you think you can't shed darkness, I agree. I'm just riffing on the linguistic oddity of the lawyer's expression "bright line." Aren't easy-to-see lines usually dark — like black ink on white paper?)
The decision about how to pay for health care is a quintessentially commercial choice in itself, not merely a decision that might have economic consequences."Quintessentially" is such a strong word that perhaps you will not notice that it's next to the phrase that is not "economic activity."
Only a crude prediction that justices will vote based on politics rather than principle would lead anybody to imagine that Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Samuel Alito would agree with the judges in Florida and Virginia who have ruled against the health care law.Oh, come on. Tribe's rhetorical move has become comical at this point. It reminds me of an old-fashioned mother exerting moral pressure on a child by telling him how sure she is that he is such a good little boy that he could never do whatever it is she doesn't want him to do. Put more directly, it's an assertion of authority: I'm telling you what's right and if you don't do it, you'll be wrong. Could the Justices possibly yield to pressure like that? It's crude to think that they would, isn't it? It's an insult both their intellect and their integrity.
And yet, Larry Tribe does think it, right? That's what's behind his rhetoric. I believe. Crudely.
UPDATE: I have 2 more posts about this op-ed, one dealing with Tribe's disapproval of people who fail to take responsibility and one dealing with the meaning of "choice."