There may very well be a train wreck coming if and when the Supreme Court declares the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare") unconstitutional just before the justices hightail it out of town for their summer vacation. But it may not be the train wreck that some are eagerly predicting for the Obama administration.
The court itself may face the strongest backlash against its stand since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision overturned the abortion laws of 40 some-odd states. Or perhaps since the 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt waged verbal and ideological warfare against the "nine old men" on the high court who, with their supposed "horse-and-buggy" adherence to an 18th century document called the Constitution of the United States, were blocking the "progressive" legislation of the New Deal.
Save for Generations X and Y, which seem to regard ignorance of history an inalienable right of youth ("It was before my time, man"), most Americans may recall that Roosevelt proposed to the Congress and nation a plan for expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court from nine to as many as 15, thereby giving the President more opportunity to appoint judges in accord with his program. The "court-packing" plan died in Congress, but it is a mistake to regard that as a defeat for Roosevelt and his agenda. The legislation was still pending when the court felt the heat and began to see things by Roosevelt's light. The majority began to move away from its stubborn conviction that an act of Congress, to be constitutionally valid, must fall at least remotely within the legislative powers enumerated in the Constitution. So when the court upheld the claim of constitutionality for the Social Security Act, people noticed the difference and the Democratic Congress allowed the court-packing plan to die a quiet death. Thus was born the classic line, "A switch in time saves nine."
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Jack Kenny (photo)