Virginia's principled conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was the first Attorney General to bring suit against Obamacare, so his initial reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling that the odious law was constitutional was one of surprise and outrage.
But after he had an opportunity to dig a little deeper, he found something important for conservatives to take away from the ruling.
As Cuccinelli pointed out, "For the first time since 1942, the Supreme Court held that even when Congress is otherwise attempting to regulate commerce, there are enforceable limits to the Commerce Clause power. And for the first time since the New Deal, the court has found a limit on Congress’s spending power – a power many thought was virtually unlimited under the Constitution."
This is certainly a good principle for the Supreme Court to establish, because as Cuccinelli said, he "maintained that the health care cases were about liberty, not about health care. We argued that the Constitution did not permit Congress – under the guise of regulating commerce – to order a citizen to buy something. A majority of the court agreed with our position. Writing for a majority, Chief Justice Roberts recognized that."
Thus, as Cuccinelli noted, "the court affirmed that there ARE constitutional limits to Congress’s commerce power and explicitly adopted the activity/inactivity distinction that opponents of the law had championed and that liberal commentators had ridiculed."
Cuccinelli is right, the Roberts opinion is a vindication of what conservatives were saying from the beginning about the individual mandate and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
What's more, as Cuccinelli correctly observed, "Now that the court has declared this a tax, its ruling effectively prevents Congress from using similar schemes to raise taxes while trying to hide them from the American people by calling the exactions by another name. From our founding, the American people have been hostile to excessive taxation. Thus, future Congresses will have to engage in such schemes at their electoral peril."
We are still frustrated by the fact that the Roberts opinion appears to allow the taxing power of Congress to trump the protection of individual freedom that are fundamental to our understanding of the Constitution, but we like where Ken Cuccinelli is coming from.
At the end of the day Cuccinelli is right -- it is, and always has been, incumbent upon the American people to work to elect leaders who recognize and value constitutional limits on government power.
It is up to the people to elect a new president and new conservative majority in the Senate to repeal this horrendous law and work to get government out of the way, use market forces to drive down costs and increase accountability, and finally to let citizens make their own decisions about their health care.