Supreme Court Justices Appear Interested In Ruling on Obamacare Insurance Mandate
Monday was the first of several days of hearings before the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the centerpiece of the Obama administration's health care reform: the requirement that all citizens and legal residents buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.
The scene outside the Court was like any major political event: crowds, pro- and con protesters, and many legal and political luminaries lining up before dawn to get a gallery seat. Inside the Court, the proceedings started with a seemingly arcane discussion of a post-Civil War tax law, which bars anyone from suing the government over a tax until they have paid it. That issue was relevant to the case because the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, would impose a penalty collected from people's income tax bills if they did not abide by the coverage mandate.
According to ScotusBlog's useful 'plain English' summary of the proceedings, the justices first heard from a lawyer they had asked to argue that they could not yet hear the case because the coverage mandate and tax penalties had not taken effect. (That part of the law starts in 2014). After a series of legal twists and turns, none of the justices appeared to be persuaded that the Court should not consider the heart of the case: whether the mandate is constitutional.
That issue is what the Court will hear arguments about on Tuesday, starting at 10 AM EST. Challengers, including 26 states, pro-life religious organizations, and libertarian think tanks, say that the Congress violated the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, and Necessary and Proper Clause. More than a dozen so-called "health freedom" states also filed briefs, citing recent changes to state constitutions allowing residents to ignore the federal insurance mandate.
Court watchers are all but certain the justices will rule on the constitutional issues. Come Tuesday morning, the real legal fireworks will begin.