This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
The initial reaction to the Court’s decision on ACA among conservatives seems to have been much like that of other observers: surprise. Some, of course, were surprised by the survival of the individual mandate; more were surprised by the configuration of the majority and minority (Roberts, not Kennedy, defecting; Kennedy’s dissent calling for total invalidation).
There seemed to be a lull in commentary as right-wing gabbers tried to absorb the opinions and develop a common take. Most interestingly, Fox News cut away almost immediately to a fifteen minute interview with the Big Boss, Rupert Murdoch, to discuss his plans for the division of News Corp. into two companies (Rupert offered a few thoughts on the Court decision, too, but nothing deep). National Review‘s The Corner was uncharacteristically quiet immediately following the announcement, but soon John Hood articulated what is rapidly becoming the Big Talking Point on the Right:
First, those who dislike the mandate–which includes a majority of U.S. voters–will now have no recourse but to vote for Mitt Romney to repeal it. Second, the only way the administration prevailed was to have Obama’s main legislative accomplishment redefined as one of the largest middle-class tax increases in the history of the country.
Indeed, the initial tendency of conservatives to express rage at the Chief Justice for betraying The Cause seems to be giving way to an appreciation of what he accomplished by shaping the decision: first, by rejecting the Commerce Clause rationale for ACA, the future option of restricting federal power (and even unraveling the New Deal and Great Society programs) remains open, and second, by using the arcane constitutional doctrine of the “taxing power” to justify ACA, Roberts gave the law’s opponents a ready-made line of attack.
There’s also naturally great interest among conservatives in the 7-2 holding that the federal government cannot withhold all Medicaid funds in order to “coerce” states to go along with ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which accounts for as much as half the law’s expansion of health insurance. Already, there’s talk of states rejecting the expansion, though not much realization of how this decision may have changed partisan politics in the states quite profoundly.
By the time the president spoke, the chattering classes of the Right were in full synch about the “ObamaCare Tax Increase.” Grover Norquist should be pleased.