Surprise!

So it’s John Roberts, not Anthony Kennedy, who joins the Court’s “liberal wing” in upholding virtually all of the Affordable Care Act, and who writes the majority opinion. Not having read the opinion, I’m doing some guessing here, but I suspect it was Roberts who insisted on the rationalization of the individual mandate as a tax, which obviated any serious review of the Commerce Clause issues supposedly at the heart of the case.

The Medicaid restrictions in the decision don’t strike me as that significant, since they simply hold that the feds can’t cut off all a state’s Medicaid dollars if it refuses to go along with the ACA’s expansion. I was half-convinced as of last night that the Court might uphold the mandate but do something drastic to Medicaid and other federal-state programs.

All in all, and again operating on the basis of what I’m reading at SCOTUSblog, this decision is close to where many people though the Court would come out before oral arguments scrambled expectations.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.