July 25, 2014

Sen. Nelson surprised by Supreme Court healthcare ruling (AUDIO)

Sen. Ben Nelson today admitted to being surprised by the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the 2010 healthcare law and acknowledged he might have been premature in criticizing the court as “activist”.

Nelson said the ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and released this morning was a pleasant surprise.

“So, yes, in a way it was surprising. It was also, though, reaffirming that what I believed and that was that this law was constitutional.” Nelson told Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.

Nelson, a Democrat, provided a crucial vote late in 2009 to pass the measure. President Obama signed it into law early in 2010. A lawsuit that eventually attracted 26 states, including Nebraska, followed on the heels of its signing.

Nelson said it matters little that the decision found Congress does not have authority under the Commerce Clause to enact an individual mandate, but can through its taxing authority. He did find at least a bit of vindication in the portion of the decision that Congress cannot coerce states to expand their Medicaid programs by threatening them with a loss of federal funding. Nelson said that was the whole point of one of the most controversial aspects of the healthcare debate two years ago.

“As a matter of fact, I caught fits and got wrapped around the axle with a lot of people misrepresenting what I was doing in trying to fight that when it was called the Cornhusker Kickback, that very, very provision,” Nelson said.

Nelson had anticipated that the court would overturn the law, prompting him to call it an “activist court”, a criticism he admitted cannot stand in light of this morning’s ruling.

“It’s hard for me to see that this was decided on ideological terms, but was decided on constitutional terms,” Nelson said. “My fear was that it was going to be decided on the basis of whether the court liked what Congress did versus whether or not what Congress did was constitutional.”

PDF of Supreme Court ruling

AUDIO: Brent Martin talks with Sen. Ben Nelson about the Supreme Court healthcare ruling. [6:15]