The Cycle | June 28, 2012
>>> i'm crystal ball , at 3:00 in king george , virginia. 2:00 in new orleans and high noon in sin city , las vegas , where i bet a lot of people didn't think this would be what's going on in the "the cycle" today, the health care law survives and chief justice roberts is the decider.
>> the doctor is in, now that the court battle is in, we'll talk to an actual doctor about how this law will work for patients.
>> the court says the tax is a penalty if you don't get coverage, but there's no penalty if you don't pay the tax. so
>> the man who helped president obama put the bill into action will be with us.
>> the house vote to hold attorney general eric holder in contempt of congress . day four of "the cycle" rolls on for june 28. good thursday afternoon to you. and welcome to "the cycle." the gang is here. hey, guys. so yesterday we were anticipating the news, today we have a little bit of actual news.
>> and as we have actual news, who was it that predicted that the mandate would be upheld?
>> criss tall.
>> who was the only person who predicted the mandate would be upheld.
>> i giver to it you, you predicted it at the table. but i did --
>> it's a great day for the court , and for america.
>> it was a great call. you got it right. we are surprised.
>> by now we all know the court 's decision, the law stays on the books, but not quite as it was written. and here are the two men that will battle out health care 2uj @&h(lc% the next four months.
>> today's decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the supreme court 's decision to uphold it.
>> obama care was bad policy yesterday, it's bad policy today. obama care was bad law yesterday, it's bad law today.
>> i wonder if it was bad law when mitt romney signed a very similar law in massachusetts . we'll leave that for another time. nbc news justice correspondent pete williams . pete i know you can only stay with us for a brief time. so i will start with you. you were literally out of breath this morning as the decision was issued. run down the highlights for us.
>> i want to know which of you thought this would be upheld as a tax decision. this is actually two decisions here, the first one looks at the central claim by opponents of the health care law who said congress can't do this because congress has the power to regulate commerce, but somebody who doesn't have insurance isn't engaged in commerce, and therefore is beyond the reach of this law, the supreme court actually agreeded with that by a vote of 5-4 with chief justice roberts joining the conservatives. but they didn't stop there, they then looked at the fallback argument that the government had, which said the congress can do this under its taxing authority and that's where the supreme court found the majority to uphold the law. chief justice roberts joined by the four liberals on the court ? said congress has the inherent power to tax someone and that basically they're taxing a choice, a choice not to have insurance, that's well within the congress power to tax, which is the supreme court said it's many times upheld in a variety of decisions. so that's the essence of the case. now there's one other part of this and that's medicaid , the states had complained that by forcing them to expand medicaid coverage. that was more than they should have to do. and the punishment if they didn't go along with that is they said the federal government can't kick them out of medicare entirely. that's the essence of the decision today, upholding the law, so now people who -- people basically have a choice, either buy insurance or pay a penalty, which the court said was a tax and curiously, that's what the law looked like in the first place anyway. you always had this choice of either abiding by the temprms of the law or pay this penalty or tax. it now becomes a bit of a dancing on the head of a pin thing to say whether the mandate is upheld or not or whether the mandate is upheld under the taxing authority. in any way, it's upheld anyway.
>> let's talk about the two key personalities in this. for the longest time, if there was going to be one republican justice who sides on the side of the -- was anthony kennedy . and ? roberts was the trojan horse guy that bush put on there with the great credentials and was put on there as a partisan guy. maybe we got both of these guys totally wrong.
>> based on the oral argument here at the end of march, there were actually many people who said that of the conservatives, chief justice roberts seemed to be the one who was most receptive. to the possibility of upholding the law. if you go back and look at the argument transcripts, it's justice kennedy who seems to be the most troubled by the health care law . so there was always an indication that it might be robert ors ken difficult but roberts i don't think was ever out of the play after you listened to the oral argument .
>> mike saks sticks around.
>> i remember explicitly the president insisting over the past two years that the individual mandate was not a tax. in fact i think we have a clip from that from a 2009 interview with george stephanopoulus.
>> some of your critics say it's a tax increase.
>> my critics say everything's a tax increase. there's critics who say i'm taking over every part of the economy.
>> so you reject that?
>> i absolutely reject that notion.
>> this court essentially upheld the individual mandate as a tax. did they effectively correct the president today?
>> they didn't as much 2correct the president as they did say exactly what he really meant. every lower court that opined on this said that the president said it's not a tax, congress said it's not a tax, so it's not a tax. this was a complete john roberts maneuver here, he did not want to uphold it under the commerce clause , and that's where he joined the four conservatives and he wanted to push back at the administration. he did --
>> i think you're absolutely right. i think what happened was that roberts said, you know what? the government made the wrorng argument. the government's lawyer argued the wrong --
>> but this is the good argument.
>> the government made the argument, but the court only one person, and that was kennedy during the oral arguments seemed at all receptive to the taxpayer argument. so this came as a big surprise that roberts actually went with the taxing power. and that's the way he could see daylight. well, roberts today kept the power for the court , kept its legitimacy and still managed to push the law the way he wanted to. masterful.
>> john roberts said it's not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices. so i may not agree with this politically$ cut you voted for the guy, you get to live with him. i don't want to rip this law apart.
>> let's keep in mind, that if it is a tax, which the court has said it is, you don't pay the tax number one, and only 2% to 5% of americans are going to be subject to this at all and perhaps even less in massachusetts. which does serve as sort of a model for this. only 1% of massachusetts residents are subject to the penalty that mitt romney put in place.
>> let's keep this in mind, america is the only rich nation in the world that has a large number of uninsured people.
>> the big issue is actually the medicaid issue, the court held it as discretionary. do not have to. so a vast expansion of health care is now in jeopardy towards people in the 26 states that challenge the law and said that they had a gun to their head by the federal government to enroll into the medicaid expansion. that's going to be a big deal , that's going to happen in november, that people will vote, whether or not they actually think they should have their poorest people enrolled in medicaid .
>> thank you so much for joining us, mike saks from