A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Supreme court will decide healthcare law with politics, Americans believe – guardian.co.uk

In News, Politics on June 9, 2012 at 09:45

US Supreme Court

Supreme court will decide healthcare law with politics, Americans believe 

Most Americans believe the supreme court’s judges will decide the constitutionality of the president’s healthcare reforms based on their personal and political views and not the law.

The findings, in a New York Times poll , show that public confidence in the court has continued to decline amid the judicial battles over health reforms and a controversial immigration law. Three-quarters of Americans say supreme court decisions are influenced by the judges’ political or personal views.

The president has already laid the ground for a political fight if the decision on health reforms goes against him by warning that it would be wrong for the “unelected” supreme court to take the “unprecedented and extraordinary” step of striking down the legislation on the grounds that the requirement for most Americans to buy private health insurance is unconstitutional.

Fifty-five percent of those polled said that the supreme court justices will decide the legality of the healthcare law “mainly based on personal or political views”. Just 32% believe the ruling will be based on its legal merits. However, the same poll revealed that more than two-thirds want the supreme court to overturn all or part of the healthcare law.

Both sides are gearing up for a major political battle over the decision, which is expected before the end of the month. Some Democrats have called on the president to make the conduct of the supreme court an election issue if it strikes down the health reforms.

The poll suggests there may be some political traction there with 60% of those questioned agreeing that “appointing Supreme Court justices for life is a bad thing because it gives them too much power”.

Confidence in the supreme court has fallen sharply since the 1980s. Its reputation suffered a significant blow among some Americans after it divided along political lines with the conservative majority delivering the presidential election to George W Bush in 2000 even though he received fewer votes than Al Gore.

More recently, its decision two years ago in the Citizens United case to permit unrestrained spending on political advertisements by businesses and unions also attracted accusations of ideological motives.

Republicans went on the counter-offensive this week. Senator Chuck Grassley accused the administration of an unconstitutional attack on the independence of the supreme court.

“I cannot remember when such a significant threat to judicial independence was made by attempting to affect the outcome of an impending case. It’s an outrageous attack on the separation of power,” he said.

Another Republican senator, Jon Kyl, accused the White House of “thinly veiled threats” against the court. Senator Mike Lee said Democrats are attempting to bully the justices. “Let’s stop yelling at the referees and let the supreme court do its job while we do ours,” he said.

On another politically charged case before the supreme court – an Arizona state law denounced as racist because it requires the police to probe the immigration status of people they stop and makes a criminal offence of being an illegal immigrant – a little more than half of Americans believe the legislation is “about right”. One-third said it goes too far.

The Obama administration has challenged the law on the grounds that it usurps federal powers to set immigration policy.

The poll shows that 64% of Americans believe that illegal immigrants should be permitted to remain in the country in order to become citizens or as guest workers. Just 32% agree with calls for them to be deported.


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