Of White Whales, Obamacare, and the Roberts Court: The Republican Attempts to Harpoon Obama’s Presidential Legacy

Of White Whales, Obamacare, and the Roberts Court: The Republican Attempts to Harpoon Obama’s Presidential Legacy

by Christopher P. Banks, Kent State University [@cpb_banks]

Presidential legacies are shaped by retrospective historical judgments that grow from political successes, failures, and opportunities. In spite of strident conservative opposition, Congress did not repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (2010) during the Obama presidency. Even so, Obamacare has been subject to continuous political attack in the federal courts. In this light, some liberal pundits have declared that continuing to attack it through litigation is analogous to Captain Ahab’s misguided and futile attempt to destroy the legendary white whale. This article surveys the constitutional significance of the major cases in health care litigation that have tested the constitutional limits of Obamacare and explores if the liberal pundits’ characterization of some of the latest challenges to Obamacare—in Sissel v. Department of Health and Human Services and the HHS contraceptive mandate accommodation cases—is legitimate as a matter of constitutional law. In the process, the political implications of the conservative attacks through litigation are assessed and whether Obamacare litigation will remain a key source of establishing Barack Obama’s presidential legacy after Obama leaves the White House.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 50, Issue 1 / January 2017, pp. 40-43