tv CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley CBS June 28, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
important domestic achievement of a liberal president. john roberts sided with the four liberal justices voting 5-4 to uphold nearly all of president obama's health care law. and leaving his conservative colleagues to join the dissenting opinion. at the heart of the law is what's called the individual mandate. it requires americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. that was found constitutional. other parts of the law also stand-- insurance companies cannot disqualify people who have a preexisting illness. they can't raise rates on the chronically sick. and children can remain on their parents' plans until the age of 26. there was one setback for the law. the court said that congress cannot force the states to expand medicaid to cover more of the poor. we have a team of correspondents covering the story. our chief legal correspondent jan crawford is at the supreme court, and, jan, it was a
complicated decision today. the majority rejected the president's main argument but still found a way to support his law. >> reporter: well, that's right, scott. and for a lot of people, the central question in this case was whether or not congress could force you to buy a product, here, insurance, from a private company, and today the court said congress didn't have that kind of power. while they upheld the law they still imposed significant restrictions on what congress can do going forward. ( cheering ) proponents cheered when they first hear heard the court ruled congress had gone too far. they agreed congress could not order people to buy something like private health insurance. that was something congress had never before done. the obama administration had argued congress could require insurance as part of its broad power to regulate commerce, but
roberts and the conservatives disagreed. wrote roberts: "under the government's logic, that authorizes congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the government would have them act." but that was only the first part of roberts' decision. ( cheering ) outside the courtroom, the mood quickly changed when it became clear that a different lineup of justices had concluded congress could require insurance by taxing people who didn't have it. as roberts explained, "the federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. the federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance." on the key last point, roberts parted ways with conservatives and joined the court's liberals to uphold the bulk of the health care law. the court based its decision on a theory that no lower court had accepted and supported that of what the law thought was a long shot-- congress had authority to pass the individual mandate as
the result of its constitutional power to lay and collect taxs. the health care law goes to great lengths to call the mandate a penalty, not a tax. but the justices said it functioned as one just the same and, there were, it was constitutional. because the constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it to to pass upon its wisdom or fairness. justices antonin scalia, anthony kennedy, clarence thomas, and samuel alito issued an unusual joint dissent, united in opposition. they said the law should be invalidated in its entirety under any constitutional provision. in a 65-page dissent, they row peteedly said the law exceeds federal power and accused the courts of vast judicial over-reaching to uphold the mandate as a tax and contrary to the specific words in the health care law. to say that the individual mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it. now, justice kennedy read out loud parts of that dissent from
the bench, and, scott, going into this decision today, many people thought if the court were going to uphold most of this law, it would be justice kennedy providing that key, decisive vote, but today, justice kennedy was the conservative, and it was john roberts giving that fifth vote with the liberals to uphold the president's signature achievement. >> pelley: a day for the history books, jan. thanks very much. the president and the chief justice have a somewhat rocky history. in 2005, then-senator obama voted against roberts' confirmation. then, at the obama inauguration in 2009, roberts misspoke the oath and had to swear in the president a second time. roberts was nominated to the court by president george w. bush, and he has been a solid conservative. we asked wyatt andrews to tell us more. >> reporter: almost every conservative scholar in the country is now asking what happened to the chief justice? >> oh, i think everybody is surprised. >> reporter: georgetown law
professor randy barnett was among the first to argue the insurance mandate was unconstitutional. he's surprised because the chief justice struck downtown key administration arguments defending the affordable care act but then went out of his way to approve the law under congress' power to tax. >> as to why he decided to uphold the act under the tax power to rewrite the law as a tax and say that it was constitutionap, that's something that only he really knows. >> reporter: until this morning, chief justice roberts was a reliable conservative vote, especially on social issues that split the court 5-4. roberts wrote the 5-4 opinion to end school integration based solely on race. he was part of the 5-4 majority that upheld the ban on late-term abortions, and the 5-4 majority allowing unlimited corporate spending in campaigns. so what happened? tom gold senior founder of scotus blog, a respected web site on the court, says roberts followed the law but knew he was
making history. where does this fit in the roberts legacy? >> this is item number one. this is his signature statement that i'm not a partisan. i'm here to provide a limited backstop to excesses by the congress. and i don't see it here. >> reporter: to conservatives, this was a signature statement, just not the right one. what's the chance he didn't want to be the chief justice to overturn this big a law? >> if it turns out that chief justice roberts did buckle under the intense political pressure that was brought to bear on him after this case was submitted, that will not be good for his legacy. as a justice. >> reporter: but there's already no question this one case changes the john roberts legacy. scott, yesterday, he was widely seen as another partisan on the court. today, in the most dramatic case of the john roberts career, he changes, he breaks the mold. >> pelley: the man of the hour, wyatt, thank you very much. in his opinion today, the chief
justice made a point of not endorsing the wisdom of the health care law. he said the decision was based on a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the nation's elected leaders. "it is not our job" he wrote "to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." the president got the news of the court's ruling today, just like millions of others, on tv. and norah o'donnell is toe white house tonight. norah. >> reporter: that's right, scott, and the president had a brief scare this morning. he was standing just outside the oval office when the decision came down watching tv as two cable news channels erroneously reported that the individual mandate was struck down. it wasn't until about a minute later when his courthouse counsel came and flashed two thumbs up that the president realized they'd actually won. now, in a statement the president avoided taking any personal credit. instead he called this a victory for the american people.
>> the highest court in the land has now spoken. we will continue to implement this law. and we'll work together to improve on it where we can. but what we won't do, what the country can't afford to do, is refight of political battles of two years ago or go back tots way things were. with today's announcement, it's time for to us move forward, to implement-- and where necessary improve on this law. >> reporter: it's worth remembering getting the law passed back in march 2010 was a huge struggle. the president made countless personal appeals to lawmakers. yet, no republicans in congress sphrortd it, and politically, voter anger over the law cost his party control of the house of representatives. >> it should be pretty clear by now that i didn't do this because it was good politics. i did it because i believed it was good for the country. i did it because i believed it was good for the american people. >> reporter: and while polls show that a majority of americans still oppose this law,
the president today tried to point out some of the more popular provisions in the law. still, scott, this is going to be part of the election year debate, and the president's advisers said today they're happy to run against mitt romney, a man who first put in place an individual mandate and tax penalty as the governor of massachusetts. >> pelley: norah, thanks. but now that he's running for president, mitt romney is against the health care law. after the decision today, he had this to say: >> as you might imagine, i disagree with the supreme court's decision, and i agree with the dissent. what the court did not do on its last day in session i will do on my first day if elected president of the united states. and that is i will act to repeal obamacare. let's make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do. what the court did today was say that obamacare does not violate the constitution. what they did not do was say that obamacare is good law or
that it's good policy. >> pelley: when romney said that he would act on day one to repeal the law, we checked with his campaign to find out exactly how. they told us that on day one, he would begin a process of stepping-by-step replacement of the law, a process that would likely require action by congress. as we said, the court ruled that congress cannot force the states to expand medicaid coverage for the poor. some states are already doing it, but others say they can't afford it, even with federal aid. we asked ben trace tow tell bus some of the people whose lives will be affected. >> reporter: nikki sweet is a music producer in california. but when she lost her full-time job in 2008, she also lost her health insurance. >> i felt like i was, you know, in the middle of the ocean. you know, i didn't know what to do. >> reporter: the medicaid expansion was designed for people like sweet who cannot afford to buy insurance. it would include people making
33% above the poverty line. the maximum income for a family of four would be nearly $31,000, and nearly $15,000 a year for single people. >> it's not just people that are on welfare or below the poverty level. there is a group of people now that can't afford health care of any kind. >> reporter: the court ruled that states get to decide if they want to expand their medicaid rolls, but these 26 states opposed the expansion, even though the federal government would pay all the cost for the first three years. states start contributing in 2017. for texas, that would mean $4.5 billion over five years. gregg abbott is that state's attorney general. >> we can make the best decision for the health care needs of the people of our state without the bureaucrats in washington, d.c. telling us how to spend our money. >> reporter: so medicaid may not be an option for ismael medellin, who lives near dallas. he had a heart attack in february, is uninsured and
struggling to pay $160 a month for pledication. >> there's a lot of us that want to work and we want the insurance but we can't afford it. >> reporter: seven states and the district of columbia already expanded coverage using state funds until the federal government starts paying in 2014. >> open. >> reporter: nikki sweet come cans to the venice family clinic for blood work to treat her thyroid disease. she'll now be eligible for medicaid because california plans to go along with the expansion. >> what it means for me now is i have some peace of mind. >> pelley: ben is in our los angeles newsroom. and, ben, i wonder, what happens to the people who won't get the expanded medicaid coverage but still can't afford private insurance? >> reporter: yeah, it's a real bind for those folks. in some states there will actually be subsidies to help them go out and buy private insurance, but if they still can't afford tscott, or if they choose not to buy it, they would then be subject to that penalty for being uninsured. >> pelley: thanks, ben. after the rulings today, some
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neighborhood in flames, 346 homes have burned down. three generations of the courtland family among the 35,000 evacuees. there are more than 1,000 firefighters there, and anna werner was with them. >> reporter: firefighters had their first break in days in dealing with a fire that incident commander rich harvey calls obnoxious. >> it just doesn't want to line out and give me a good place to figure out the best actions to take. today, with with the winds down, we've got a shot to dictate to that fire what's going to happen. >> reporter: what's already happened to many can now be seen clearly from the air in the images of the burned out homes and cull deactions and heard in videos. >> my whole life is in flames. >> reporter: jeff lucas of lucas shot this video tuesday as he and his parents ran to escape the fast-moving fire. >> this is unbelievable.
it's all the way down the hill, dude! look at it! we've got to go! >> reporter: that's your subdivision. >> yeah. >> reporter: early this morning, he found a photo online that let him zoom in to see his home. >> i mean i looked at this and i said, you know, this is the moment of truth, and that's when your heart starts pounding a bit because you know you're going to find out what the status is. >> reporter: he did. the house was gone. >> it's just one of those things that you're not going to get back. i mean, you can rebuild the house, but it's not going to be the same, you know. >> reporter: officially, this fire stands at 10% contained, but, scott, the incident commander told me today he puts the actual figure at closer to 30%, and if the good weather holds tomorrow, they're hoping that figure will go higher. >> pelley: a lot of work left to do. anna, thanks very much. your mother may have told you not to do it, but it turns out you do have the right to lie. that story is coming up.
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where's the fun now? night guys! [ sighs ] ♪ [ male announcer ] venza. >> pelley: after the supreme court rulings today, president obama met for three hours with 52 wounded service members at walter reed national military medical center in maryland. the last american combat troops are expected to be out of afghanistan by the end of 2014, but david martin says walter reed reminds us it's not over, over there. >> reporter: don't tell the troops at walter reed the war in afghanistan is wind down. amputations, many of them multiple, have gone up to more than 20 a month. what was the damage? >> uh, both legs amputated.
>> reporter: staff sergeant eric meyers was on his third tour in afghanistan when he stepped on a booby trap. the so-called improvised explosive device made from fertilizers smuggled in from pakistan. is the fighting still pretty intense over there? >> it's starting to pick up. all the fighters from pakistan are starting to show back up for fighting season so it's starting to pick up, pretty intense. >> reporter: you know, most of the people back here think the war is winding down. >> over there on the ground, it's not winding down. >> reporter: yeah. >> it's still just as intense as it was. >> reporter: lance corporal chad ohmer was also hit by an i.e.d. >> they're bad. they're bad. there's a lot of them out there. and that's what-- that's what's getting most of the people out there. >> reporter: ohmer, whose wife is expecting, was on his second tour in afghanistan. >afghanistan. it become less intense the second time you were there? >> no, no, not really. they're still fighting.
it seems like more we push, the more they bring in more and keep on fighting. >> reporter: ohmer did not lose any limbs but the physical therapy room is filled with soldiers and marines who have. lance corporal timothy donley lost both his legs and very nearly his right arm as well. how bad is this arm? that's a pretty nasty scar. >> yeah, i-- i lost this whole piece of my arm. so my arm was just holding on by this-- this little piece here. and i thought i was going to lose it, but the doctors managed to save it. >> reporter: afghanistan has left an indelible mark on these young men. one of the them lankre corporate garrett carnes has made it even more indelible with a tattoo. >> this is to represent me and my two buddies who wound up getting hurt. >> reporter: so that moment is going to be with you in more ways than one for the rest of your life. >> that's right. that moment changed my life so i
might as well embrace it, don't resent it, just embrace it. >> reporter: as troops head into another summer of fighting, the hard truth here at walter reed is is that afghanistan changed them more than they changed afghanistan. david martin, cbs news, walter reed. >> pelley: and that's the cbs evening news for tonight. with thanks to the jones day law firm for this view of the capitol, and for all of us at cbs news all around the world, good night.
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