There are some people for whom the recent Supreme Court ruling on "Obamacare" was not shocking at all. Laurence Silberman is not a household name, but he, as much as anyone or anything else, may be responsible for Chief Justice John Roberts' willingness to provide the deciding vote to uphold virtually all of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
For the vast majority of Americans who do not know of Judge Silberman, he is a senior federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, recognized by most legal experts as the most important of the Circuit Courts of Appeals. He has also arguably been the most respected and influential of all conservative jurists in the country, including the present members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In his late 70s and an appointee of President Reagan, Silberman was in many ways a mentor for John Roberts from 2003 until 2005, when they both served together. When he authored the D.C. Court's surprising opinion on the ACA in November 2011, it was given some attention, but apparently not what it probably deserved. For the record, the opinion was unequivocal in its support of the constitutionality of the entire ACA and, in fact, was scornful of those groups filing the suit, stating, "[the] appellants cannot find real support for their [argument] in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent." This certainly did not go unnoticed by Justice Roberts and just a few days later the Supreme Court made its decision to accept the case.
We may never learn whether the Chief Justice's opinion was most related to his desire to protect the reputation of the court as an apolitical body, to the principle of upholding major social legislation constitutionally enacted by Congress and the executive branch, to the persuasiveness of the oral arguments in March, or to considerations of his personal legacy. I have little doubt, though, that without the intervention of Laurence Silberman, John Robert's role in the momentous ruling would have been far different.
Thankfully, West Virginia was not a party to this suit involving 26 other states and thus did not waste taxpayer money on what turned out to be a futile effort. For that we owe a debt of gratitude to both the Manchin and Tomblin administrations.
Not unexpectedly, there have been calls by political partisans to undo the Supreme Court ruling by Congressional repeal. It's my belief, though, that except for the ultra-strident, after three years, most of us have been or will soon be overcome by health-care debate "fatigue". An increasing number already seem more willing to learn many of the specifics of the law. As that happens, they will discover that many of them have already benefited, how many in the future will be positively affected and how few will be negatively affected, and, interestingly, that members of Congress will now be required to obtain their health insurance just like tens of millions of other Americans -- through an insurance exchange.
It seems to me that most of the law's opponents will eventually take heed of the immortal words of Justice Antonin Scalia after the controversial Bush vs. Gore decision in 2000 and "just get over it." They will realize that there is much that needs to be done to improve and perfect this "good first step" to make Americans healthier while reducing waste in the system, and, as John Roberts and Laurence Silberman obviously recognized, it would be best for those of all political ideologies to work on this together.Foster, a Charleston surgeon and senator from Kanawha County, is a Gazette contributing columnist.