And the Constitution's provision that tax bills must be originated in the House of Representatives means that the party controlling the House can effectively block such measures. That will be an argument for Republican congressional candidates for the indefinite future.
It should not be forgotten that the Supreme Court did overturn part of the Obamacare legislation, the provision allowing the federal government to cut off states from all Medicaid funding if they refuse to vastly expand Medicaid eligibility as the legislation requires.
Here, another novel legal argument, advanced by Vanderbilt law professor (and my law school classmate) James Blumstein, found favor with a majority of justices. The idea is that Congress can't use the leverage of partial federal funding to force the states to increase the size and scope of government.
This seems like a principle that could work powerfully against big government policies. Medicaid has been vastly expanded over the years in this manner. Now the Court seems to be saying that that game is over.
The court's decision elicited sighs of relief from the White House. The president's entire administration is not in disarray.
But the basic assumptions that he brought to office have proven unwarranted. Obama followed the New Deal historians in portraying history as a story of progress from minimal government to big government and in arguing that economic distress would make Americans more supportive of big government policies.
The unpopularity of Obamacare and the stimulus package have proven the latter assumption wrong. Most Americans are skeptical about the supposedly guaranteed benefits of centralized big government programs.
And history does not move in one direction toward big government, even if it did from 1929 to 1945. Mercantilism was replaced by free trade in the 19th century, New Deal regulation by deregulation in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Supreme Court's decision, while upholding Obamacare, tilts the legal and political playing field away from big government more than anyone anticipated three years ago, and probably for years to come.