Finally, policy wise: this is perhaps the most important thing to come out of this ruling but one which will no doubt get the least amount of coverage. While the legal and political implications will be debated ad nauseam in the weeks and months to come, it is undeniable that beginning in just a year and a half more Americans will have health insurance now that the Court has spoken. By official nonpartisan estimates, more than 30 million more Americans will be covered as a result of the Affordable Care Act. It remains to be seen if those figures are accurate – or if the law helps to bend the cost curve as advertised. If the Court had thrown out parts or even all of the law, then that would have been one of those “known unknowns.” It would have been hard to predict what might have happened had the decision gone the other way. Who knows what would have happened if the Court had not desegregated schools in 1954, or declared abortion legal in 1973.
Through all of this, one thing is clear; Alexander Hamilton was certainly wrong when he argued in Federalist 78 that the Courts have little power relative to the Executive (the “sword”) and the Legislature (“the purse”). The power of judgment is an awesome power – as have just witnessed once again.
Malone is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Pace University