Why John Roberts did what he did.
Roberts is no dummy. The ruling did three things, all consistent with Roberts limited government thinking.
1. By limiting the enforcement power of the Feds over the states, he is forcing the Feds to negotiate agreements with the states, 27 of which were plaintiffs in this case, over the issue of Medicaid expansion.
2. By calling the individual mandate a tax, he has inserted a poison pill in what appears to be a ruling in the favor of the administration. He has given Romney another issue to run with: Obama raised taxes on you. Romney need only use CBO numbers to show what this new tax could cost the “average” American family: $15,000 per year for a family of four. Remember what happened to GHW Bush after he buckled on his “no new taxes” pledge.
3. By not addressing the commerce clause directly in this particular case, he leaves it to be done in a less controversial case. In part of his ruling he telegraphed that he believes the clause to be too expansive in its current interpretation, and by saying that begs that a commerce clause case be brought before him, possibly one with a more clear cut solution.
Roberts is a political animal. You don’t get where he is by not being one. I think he is right if he believes the legislative and executive branches need to settle this. It is their job. The fact that there is so much controversy over this issue makes a prima facia case that it is bad law. By contrast, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed congress with 80% Republican and 65% Democrat support. If a health reform can be put together that will pass muster like that, the controversy will be over. The people on the far left and right will have to go fish. Both sides of this issue wanted to go the cheap and easy route and let the court decide, and take the heat. Roberts basically decided not to decide. My initial disdain for this decision is being tempered by these thoughts.