As Linus alluded to, I do indeed have a prediction about the Affordable Care Act cases, although it is not altogether interesting: I predict the Court will uphold the entire law, as well as severability generally, and that the Court will reaffirm the reach of the federal government’s tax-and-spend power.
That said, I think the real story will be how the opinions are structured. If Kennedy goes for upholding the law, it seems plausible that Roberts would glom on specifically to assign the opinion to himself to write a more conservative opinion in line with Judge Kavanaugh’s D.C. Circuit dissent ruling the whole mandate nonjusticiable on procedural grounds. And if Roberts is on board, Scalia may even hop on in hopes of writing a concurring opinion that has some precedential effect.
The long and short of it, however, is that the Court’s ruling here will probably have only marginal effect on the law itself. If the Court were to rule all or part of the ACA unconstitutional, it would be in a world of political attack. Calls for Thomas’s impeachment would grow; Obama would run against the Supreme Court as a countermajoritarian institution (combining Citizens United, Parents Involved, and the ACA cases together). After seeing the discomfort of the Justices at being targeted during the State of the Union, I doubt they want to hurt their institutional reputation any more. Better to find a way to wriggle out of the ruling than to be the next Court to be packed.
Even if the Court were to strike down the individual mandate, all that would do to the ACA is make it cost a lot more. For all our hand-wringing about debt, we don’t care so much about, say, Medicare Part D or other large spending packages. I doubt much would change with the law other than a few tweaks. Plus, if insurance rates really do go down thanks to local exchanges, more people, even healthy young people who usually don’t buy insurance, would be willing to partake without a mandate.
Caveat to all this is that court-watching is an inherently unpredictable sport: Famously, the last major Commerce Clause case in which a federal law was found unconstitutional was U.S. v. Lopez (the Gun-Free School Zone case) which everyone thought would be a slam-dunk for the government. 8-1 at least, with only Thomas in the dissent. And then, at oral argument, it became clear that the conservative members of the Court were looking for a limit to Commerce Clause power and believed they had their case. 5 votes later, down came the first Commerce Clause case since the New Deal to strike down a federal law.