This artist's rendering shows Chief Justice John Roberts (center) speaking at the Supreme Court on Thursday. From left are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. The court voted 5-4 to uphold President Obama's health care law.
Shock, dismay, relief, confusion — all those emotions played out Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-to-4 decision to uphold almost all of President Obama's health care overhaul.
The ruling, with shifting majorities on different provisions and multiple dissents, covered close to 200 pages and provoked initial confusion. Both Fox News and CNN got it wrong, reporting at first that the individual mandate had been struck down. But when the dust cleared, the law labeled derisively by Republicans as "Obamacare" was largely intact.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. Two years ago, a backlash against the Obama administration's health care law helped propel Republicans to a House majority and today's Supreme Court ruling upholding the law prompted more Republican calls for repeal. Here's the speaker of the House, John Boehner.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety.
We want to find out what today's ruling means for someone who's had difficulty with his health-care coverage. So we're turning to Shawn Pollock. He's 30 years old. He said he had excellent benefits until he was laid off from his job at a TV station, in 2009. He couldn't afford insurance, even under COBRA. And then he got viral meningitis and was hospitalized, leading him to be labeled high risk when he applied for insurance.
Shawn Pollock joins me now from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Welcome to the program.
More now on the Supreme Court where health care was not the only case decided today. The justices struck down the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about receiving military decorations or medals. The Court ruled it may be unethical to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor, but it's protected speech under the First Amendment.
NPR's Larry Abramson reports that veterans groups are disappointed, but they say the decision leaves room for Congress to try again.
For more now on the political impact of the Supreme Court ruling, we're joined by NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, hi.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Melissa.
BLOCK: We heard jubilation from Democrats, some shock from Republicans there. This is clearly a very important legal win for the president and for his policy on health care. But until this point, health care has not always been a winning issue for the president. Let's listen to some of what he said today addressing that question.
The Supreme Court's ruling effectively ends the state of limbo the health law has been in for months now. The court upheld almost the entire health law. It decided the most controversial feature, the so-called individual mandate that requires most people to either have insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional. Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the opinion for the five justice majority, said the mandate is okay because the penalty is a tax.
So in the end, it was the chief justice, John Roberts, providing the key fifth swing vote to uphold the health-care law. Roberts, the conservative appointee of George W. Bush, ended up siding with the liberal wing of the court.
To talk about that turn, I'm joined by Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University. Welcome back, Jeffrey.