I ran into a prominent conservative member of Congress Friday night just before the huge storms moved through Washington. He was, he said, far angrier on the day after the Supreme Court Obamacare decision than he had been the moment he learned Chief Justice John Roberts had joined the Court’s liberal bloc to uphold the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare. He didn’t resort to histrionics or profanity, but he was spitting mad — and his anger was growing, not diminishing.
A short time later, I saw another conservative lawmaker who said much the same thing. And yet another conservative leader who was in the same frame of mind.
At the same time, a backlash was forming in response to analyses by some formidable conservative writers — George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and others — who argued the Obamacare decision was actually a victory for conservatives because it placed a limit on expansive interpretations of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. In the Wall Street Journal, Berkeley law professor and former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo called such silver-lining analyses “hollow hope” and wrote that Obamacare is precisely the disaster for conservatives it appears to be:
The outer limit on the Commerce Clause in Sebeliusdoes not put any other federal law in jeopardy and is undermined by its ruling on the tax power…Justice Roberts’s opinion provides a constitutional road map for architects of the next great expansion of the welfare state.
Early polling also shows signs of increasing intensity among conservatives and Republicans in the wake of Roberts’ decision. In the first survey since the ruling, Gallup found that Americans are split down the middle — 46 percent to 46 percent — on the question of whether they agree or disagree with the Court. But when asked what should happen next, significant differences emerged. Sixty-five percent of Democrats said they want to see the law kept in place and the government’s role in health care expanded. But 85 percent of Republicans said they want to see Obamacare repealed either in whole or in part. It’s possible that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, a long-running trend in opinion — that Republicans dislike Obamacare more than Democrats like it — will become more, not less, pronounced.