Ellis Henican Newsday columnist Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a political analyst at the Fox News Channel and

Here it comes, the biggest decision of the U.S. Supreme Court's current term, and the stakes could not be much higher.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida should have a huge impact on how Americans get their medical care, on the future of two of the nation's largest industries (insurance and health care) and on the identity of the next president of the United States. Health care reform was Barack Obama's signature achievement. It will rise or fall on a court ruling in the next few days.

And does anyone really believe the decision will be made strictly on the legal and constitutional merits? Freed from all partisan political concern? That was a beautiful concept, enshrined in the Constitution, this idea of a court of wise and dispassionate minds. Lately, court decisions are more a matter of power and wrangling. Politics keeps trumping law.

The justices have always had their clunker rulings. But with Bush v. Gore in 2000, a 5-4 court installed a president on reasoning so tortured it needed a warning label: Don't even think of applying this to any other case. And in the 2010 Citizens United case, another 5-4 decision turned the current election cycle into a runaway bidding war.

It's dangerous predicting court decisions. But in the health care oral arguments, everyone lined up as predicted -- 5-4 against the president. And 50 percent of Americans recently told The Washington Post-ABC News poll they expect the court to base this decision on "partisan political views." Only 40 percent said "on the basis of the law." That 40 percent must not follow the court too closely.



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1. Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857): Runaway slaves not free, even in free states.

2. Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886): Corporations are people, too.

3. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): Upholding "separate but equal."

4. Schenck v. United States (1919): Harmless leaflets a "clear and present danger."

5. Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923): No minimum wage for women.

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: What's left now that Suffolk is banning smoking at beaches and parks? Golf courses? Yes, for now . . . Was that the best storm ever? A Friday downpour chasing weekend humidity away . . . If smoking is really the new sitting, who wants to start taxing chairs? . . . How did Maryland's Calvert Hall get in there? They're No. 2 in the national high-school lacrosse ranking, squeezed between West Islip (No. 3) and Garden City (No. 1, again) . . . Who put a dog in a cooler floating on LI Sound? Even by SPCA standards, it's a real mystery . . . Mike Bloomberg is banning Big Gulps while Nassau Legis. David Denenberg is up in arms over a hot-day shortage of Toasted Almond and Candy Center Crunch ice cream? In the calorie wars, is there no middle ground? . . . You have a name for the LI Game Farm's new Aussie red kangaroo? The young male needs one . . . How cheesy do you think I am? Cheesy enough to ask where the cops were when a parking dispute at an Amityville Dunkin' Donuts led to gunfire. So where were they?


THE NEWS IN SONG: "Split Decision," Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, tinyurl.com/ericvsteve


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Some guys just get a brain aneurysm, have eight or 10 hours of surgery and, after recuperation, go on their way. Not Richard Salgado. The New Hyde Park native walked into the hospital in 2008 with what he thought was an earache -- and he hasn't stopped giving back. On Monday, Salgado, 46, is hosting the Big Daddy Celebrity Golf Classic at Oheka Castle in Huntington to benefit North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System's Brain Aneurysm Center in Manhasset. Big Daddy is a college nickname. These days, Salgado has an insurance practice with a heavy athlete clientele. So Mike Tyson, Tiki Barber, Gary Sheffield and others promise to join the fundraiser. But it's the doctors, nurses and researchers Salgado is most grateful for. "They saved my life," he said. "This really is the least that I can do."

Email ellis@henican.com

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