Under the Chief Justice’s opinion, real economic mandates are beyond the power of Congress. Congress can’t force action where there was none. Congress can’t say you must act or else go to jail, for example. The individual mandate is constitutional because despite the name because it’s not really a mandate. Congress called it a mandate, to be sure, but in practice it’s really just a small tax. And the enforcement mechanism is pretty light. So you really don’t have to get health insurance: You just have to pay the smallish penalty if you decide you don’t want it. So Congress lacks the power to say that you go to jail if you don’t buy health insurance. But Congress does have the power to encourage you to get health insurance by imposing a tax if you don’t, as long as the tax isn’t so coercive that it’s really more than just a tax. ...Read the rest at the link.
Congress and Economic Mandates
Orin Kerr at Volokh: