As the Congress returns to work this week after a July Fourth break, Republicans in the House will focus their political energy on a vote scheduled for Wednesday which would repeal the Obama health law.
The outcome is easy to predict, as Republicans will vote for the law's repeal, while Democrats will denounce the effort as a partisan waste of time.
Once again, the bill will get through the House, and then go nowhere in the U.S. Senate.
As for the Supreme Court's ruling on the Obama health law, my email inbox was filled over the past week with missives from listeners and readers about how the Justices dealt with the individual mandate to buy health insurance, and the tax/penalty that would be paid to Uncle Sam.
"The intent of Obama Care was clearly not a tax," one reader wrote me, aiming his barbs clearly at Chief Justice John Roberts.
"My question is; what is to prevent future Supreme Court rulings from changing the intent of other laws to a tax?" the writer added.
My answer is pretty simple - you are making this too complicated.
What's the old line? "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck."
And to me, no matter the name, the individual mandate provision brings in revenue to the federal government.
You can call it a tax, a penalty, a fee, or (as I call it) a tax penalty - whatever you like - it doesn't matter what name you use, it still is going to bring in money to the federal government.
And right now, no Supreme Court case will find that type of activity to be unconstitutional.
Because of that, maybe the biggest unanswered political question from this decision is a basic one - is there any limit to Congress' power to tax?
Go back to Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone in the 1930's, whose words might have been echoing in the ear of the Chief Justice in recent weeks:
"You can do anything under the taxing power," Stone was quoted as saying when Social Security was under a legal microscope.
"The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," wrote the Chief Justice in his majority opinion.
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," he added.
From 2015-2019, the "penalty payments by uninsured individuals" - those who don't buy health insurance and are then subject to the tax/penalty/tax penalty/fee - would total $15 billion.
There are actually tax provisions in the Obama health law that raise much more money than that, but the individual mandate has attracted the most attention by far, not exactly the largest tax increase ever as Republicans have been trying to characterize it.
Realistically at this point, the only way that opponents can actually repeal the health law is for the GOP to take charge of the White House, Senate and House in November.
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