President Obama says he wasn't surprised the Supreme Court upheld his healthcare law — but he thinks the court used the wrong legal reasoning.
In an interview published Thursday by Rolling Stone, Obama said the healthcare law should have been upheld under the Constitution's Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court rejected that argument while allowing the law to stand. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's liberal justices to uphold the healthcare law under Congress's taxing power.
"I wasn't surprised. I was always confident that the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, was constitutional," Obama said in the Rolling Stone interview. "It was interesting to see them, or Justice Roberts in particular, take the approach that this was constitutional under the taxing power.
"The truth is that if you look at the precedents dating back to the 1930s, this was clearly constitutional under the Commerce Clause."
"I think Justice Roberts made a decision that allowed him to preserve the law but allowed him to keep in reserve the desire, maybe, to scale back Congress' power under the Commerce Clause in future cases," Obama told Rolling Stone.
It's one of the first times any major Democratic figure has waded into the distinction between the taxing power and the Commerce Clause. Asked about it on the day of the Supreme Court's decision, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said her party should "take yes for an answer."
But Roberts's ruling on the Commerce Clause was a big substantive win for conservatives, even if they were initially upset about the political win for Obama.
"It's hard to dispute that health care is a national issue of massive importance," Obama told Rolling Stone. "It takes up 17 or 18 percent of our entire economy; it touches on everybody's lives; it is a massive burden on businesses, on our federal budget and on families. It's practiced across state lines. So the notion that Congress could not take a comprehensive approach to that problem the way we have makes no sense."