Politics

Howard Dean predicts Supreme Court will declare individual mandate unconstitutional

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

On Monday’s “CBS This Morning,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean broke with Democratic Party ranks once again on the issue of Obamacare. But this time, he did it in terms of how he thinks the Supreme Court will view the law.

Host Charlie Rose asked Dean, a physician and former Democratic presidential candidate, if he thought the individual mandate would ultimately be declared unconstitutional.

“I actually think that’s what they’re most likely to do before, of course, we’ve heard any arguments,” Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, replied. “I can’t imagine how they’re going to decide this isn’t right yet. And you’ll have lawyers talking about the arcane legal question. But yeah, I don’t believe they’ll support that. And they certainly aren’t going to do it from the bench today.”

“I do believe that it’s likely the individual mandate will be declared unconstitutional,” he continued. “[Justice Anthony] Kennedy will probably side with the four right-wing justices. But I’d be very surprised if they — I think Kennedy will switch sides and it will be 5-4 in favor of severing that finding from the rest of the bill. The question is going to be, is this individual mandate question — can that be considered separately from the rest of the bill? And I think it will be.”

While he admitted his expertise was in medicine and not in legal matters, Dean also predicted that the portion of the legislation that expands Medicaid would be kept intact by the high court. He added that Obamacare could likely survive without the mandate portion.

“I’m not a lawyer,” Dean said. “As you know, I’m a physician. So I don’t speak about the constitutionality of the individual mandate. But it’s definitely not necessary for the bill to succeed. It was mainly put in by academics who built the program for Gov. [Mitt] Romney in Massachusetts — they had did it there — and for insurance companies who will benefit from extra customers. But the truth is that the number of so-called free riders, people who will refuse to get insurance until they get sick, is going to be very, very small.

Dean then argued, “It would have been easier for them not to include an individual mandate in the first place because mandates make people mad.”

“Everyone is a libertarian in America, whether Democratic, Republican or independent,” he said. “They don’t like to be told what to do by government. So the actual benefit of having the mandate is relatively small.”

Dean reminded viewers that he was not a supporter of that bill because he thought it didn’t go far enough at the time. However, he also maintained that the bill has many good qualities.

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