If there’s one upside to last week’s unexpected healthcare furor, it’s that a long-held myth of American government was rightly challenged — namely that the Supreme Court is insulated from the muck and mire of politics and partisanship.
On Sunday, Paul Krugman wrote that the healthcare wrangle revealed that the justices were indeed “political creatures pure and simple.” Think Progress noted that many of Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks echoed what have been central talking points for leading Republican presidential candidates and conservative talking-heads:
Additionally troubling was the justices’ conspicuous ignorance of many of the provisions under consideration. Justice Breyer admitted he hadn’t read the whole bill (somewhat understandable, given its 2700 page length, but is this something a Supreme Court Justice really wants to admit?). And Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo wrote last week that the debate demonstrated the Court’s “persistent lack of knowledge” about the structure of the US healthcare system.
We cited Slate legal expert Dahlia Lithwick last week, who argued that the justices’ objections reflected a legal outlook situated sometime in the early 19th century. Buttressing Maya Wiley, founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion, Jeremy Leaming of the American Constitution Society blog commented on the justices misunderstanding of the constitutional scope of these provisions:
The health care market has indeed been functioning in a way to keep tens of millions of Americans from being able to get the care they need. And, of course, being saddled with illness makes it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to pursue happiness and experience liberty.