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June 20, 2021

Thursday brought a mixed bag of decisions from the Supreme Court. On the plus side, in a surprising unanimous 9-0 decision, the SCOTUS ruled that Philadelphia cannot exclude a Catholic services organization from providing adoption services through its system because their religious beliefs bar them from arranging adoptions for same-sex couples. There are more details at the link. The decision was fairly narrow, and conservatives on the Court thought that there should have been more clarity to clean up the conflicts between previous related decisions and First Amendment rights.

However, for the third time, the SCOTUS rejected an attempt to get rid of Obamacare, this time filed by 18 states. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court said that the states “lack standing” to sue because they suffered no direct harm. “Lack of standing” seems to have become the Court’s go-to excuse for not examining controversial issues that need to be settled.

In a stinging dissent, Justice Alito scolded the Court for its creative efforts to keep pulling reasons out of the air to preserve Obamacare. He noted that if it costs the states $1, then they have standing to sue, but it costs them billions in Medicaid funds, yet they don’t have standing to sue? Alito wrote:

“No one can fail to be impressed by the lengths to which this Court has been willing to go to defend the ACA against all threats. A penalty is a tax. The United States is a State. And 18 States who bear costly burdens under the ACA cannot even get a foot in the door to raise a constitutional challenge. So a tax that does not tax is allowed to stand and support one of the biggest Government programs in our Nation’s history. Fans of judicial inventiveness will applaud once again. But I must respectfully dissent.”

I’ve decided that Obamacare is the Bill and Hillary Clinton of health care legislation. No matter how bad it is or how much trouble it causes, someone in a powerful position will always intervene to protect it, even if it requires twisting the law like a pretzel.

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