Reports are out that the individual mandate has been upheld by a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four liberal members of the court in upholding the mandate under Congress’ power to tax. I’m not shocked by this. The law was written that way on purpose, enforcing the mandate through the tax code because the Constitution explicitly grants the power to tax to Congress. No link to the ruling yet.
Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog offers this key quote from the ruling:
Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.
The ruling is now available on the Supreme Court website. Get it before the server crashes. Here’s the key section from the syllabus:
Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibilitypayment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy healthinsurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance.