The Supreme Court's highly anticipated ruling on Obama's healthcare reforms could come any day now. Whatever the verdict, expect much ado about the hotly debated role of broccoli in healthcare and arcane explanations of the Commerce Clause that is at the center of the legal case against the individual mandate. But buried deep in hearings filled with legalese and judicial sparring was a short exchange that illuminates an American ideal that truly hangs in the balance with this decision—the idea that in a civilized society, we do not sit idly by and watch our neighbors die.
The specific back-and-forth in question occurred on the third day of the hearings between Justice Antonin Scalia and Solicitor General Donald Verilli, the Administration official charged with defending the law in court. It went like this.
GENERAL VERRILLI: No. It's because you're going — in the health care market, you're going into the market without the ability to pay for what you get, getting the health care service anyway as a result of the social norms that allow — that — to which we've obligated ourselves so that people get health care.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, don't obligate yourself to that. Why — you know?
GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I can't imagine that that — that the Commerce Clause would —would forbid Congress from taking into account this deeply embedded social norm.
JUSTICE SCALIA: You — you could do it.