TheU.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to uphold all but one part of the 2010 healthcare law produced some strong reactions. Supporters declared victory and opponents vowed to keep fighting. That much was to be expected.
But Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s rant against the high court’s ruling was a surprise of sorts. The physician-turned-elected-official appeared to suggest that the court needs a legal lesson or two.
“Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional,” Paul said in a statement. “While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our healthcare right.”
The senator is right, of course, about “a couple people” deciding. But in this case, five people, who happen to be justices on the Supreme Court, declared the law constitutional. Those five individuals constitute a majority on the high court and thus are empowered to decide whether something is constitutional or not.
Perhaps Paul’s beef, though, isn’t with this court but with the 209-year-old landmark decision in Marbury vs. Madison that established the basis for judicial review under Article III of the Constitution and cleared the way for federal courts to declare laws unconstitutional.
Either way, Paul’s comments were the latest in a week of decisions that sparked spirited public debate. First, Justice Antonin Scalia read his feisty dissent from the majority’s opinion that struck down most of Arizona’s harsh immigration law, and then a freshman senator declared that just because some people on the Supreme Court weigh in on a legal matter, that doesn’t mean they know what they are doing.