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News from the Votemaster

Major Supreme Court Decisions to be Handed Down This Week

The Supreme Court will close out its session this week by handing down a number of momentous decisions, including rulings on the Affordable Care Act, Montana's law forbidding corporations from donating to political campaigns, and Arizona's immigration law. Justice Ruth Ginsberg made the comment last week that sharp disagreements are ahead, probably hinting at some 5-4 decisions along partisan lines.

A recent poll shows that most Americans believe the justices are influenced by their personal political views, rather than being neutral umpires calling balls and strikes. Most also are against justices being appointed for life, although the constitution mandates this (in principle to isolate the justices from public opinion).

Is there any way out of a system in which five justices can throw out laws duly passed by Congress because they personally don't like them? One interesting suggestion is to increase the number of justices from nine to a much larger number say 19. Nothing in the constitution says how many there should be, and the number has fluctuated over the years. If there were 19 justices, there is always the possibility of 10-9 partisan splits, but it is far less likely since each justice would matter less. Also, some of them might be influenced by factors other than partisan politics.

Obama Braces for Health Care Ruling

For President Obama personally, the most important event of the week is likely to be the Supreme Court's decision on the ACA. In reality, he does not know what is going to happen any more than anyone else besides the justices and their clerks and is and is not really prepared for it. If the entire law is struck down, it will be a big hit for him with no upside. If the individual mandate is struck down but the rest of the law left intact, it is less of a disaster for him because if Congress does not act, the entire health insurance system will collapse in 2014 as people will drop insurance until they get sick. This situation will force both him and Mitt Romney to explain what they will do. In theory Romney could say he will repeal the rest of the law and just stick with the old system, but that is not likely to be a pleasing answer to the 30 million people who would have gotten insurance under the ACA and won't if Romney gets his way. At the very least, a Court decision striking down parts of the law but not all of it is likely to make health insurance a key campaign issue. From Obama's point of view, he would rather have the rest of the campaign be about insurance rather than the economy.

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---The Votemaster

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