A Sneak Peek at the Supreme Court's Opinion on Health Care?

How the refusal to hear a completely separate case may foreshadow the Supreme Court's take on health care

This article is from the archive of our partner .

This week, the Supreme Court refused to review a case about whether Congress can criminalize the possession of a bullet-proof vest by a convicted felon. Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia opposed the court's decision, arguing that refusing to hear the case "threatens the proper limits on Congress' commerce power and may allow Congress to exercise police powers that our Constitution reserves to the States."

The limits of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause is also a big part of the health care debate. Those pushing for repeal of the current health care law argue that requiring all American citizens to purchase health insurance is beyond Congress's constitutionally-allotted powers. The SCOTUS Blog notes today that, although the refuted bullet-proof vest case does not include any mention of the health care law, the justices' decision to dismiss the former may indicate their opinion on the latter, because of the central role the Commerce Clause plays in both cases.

So what, exactly does this mean for health care?

  • ‘Smooth Sailing Ahead’ The Christian Science Monitor’s Warren Richey thinks the court’s attitude towards the Alderman case is good sign for the health care law. “The fact that only two of the high court’s nine justices would agree to hear the commerce clause case may portend a Supreme Court retreat from what was once called the federalism revolution,” Richey proposes. “Such a retreat would ensure smooth sailing ahead at the nation’s highest court for the health-care law.”
  • Two Completely Different Issues Ezra Klein at The Washington Post isn’t sure the court’s opinion on the bullet-proof vest issue will necessarily carry over into health care, or at least he hopes not. He writes:
I think it's hard to argue that regulating a national health-care system is a less appropriate use of federal power than deciding what people can wear when they walk to the grocery, but so be it. As I've noted before, feelings on the individual mandate tend to turn on party and overall opinion of the health-care law, and it's entirely possible that the court's members will find themselves with much stronger feelings on those questions than on bullet-proof vests.
  • Court Is in No Hurry to Constrain Congress  Rochelle Bobroff at the American Constitution Society points out that, based on previous similar decisions, it was “completely predictable” that the more progressive justices decided to decline the Alderman case. “Of course, no one can know how the justices will apply Lopez and Morrison when the health care law reaches their court,” Bobroff explains. “But today’s denial of certiorari provides at least some suggestion that the Court is not eager to constrain Congress’ power to enact laws.”
  • Scalia’s Dissent is ‘A Pretty Clear Signal’ The only two justices to fight the case’s were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia who disagreed on a previous Commerce Clause case (Gonzales v. Raich). Reason blogger Damon Root argues that, “by signing on here, rather than simply keeping his vote secret like the other seven justices, Scalia has sent a pretty clear signal that, Gonzales notwithstanding, he still believes the Commerce Clause places a few genuine limits on congressional power. We'll have to wait and see if he thinks those limits extend to ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.