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Supreme Court hearing raises prospect that Obamacare may be overturned

Catholic World News - March 28, 2012

Supreme Court justices rigorously questioned the constitutional basis for the Obama health-care reforms during a March 27 hearing, prompting analysts to believe that the High Court might overturn the landmark legislation.

During the 2nd of 3 days devoted to oral arguments about the health-care reform, 5 of the 9 justices voiced serious concerns about the legislation’s expansion of federal government powers. Solicitor General Don Verrilli, who was defending the law against challenges brought by 26 state attorneys general, was consistently on the defensive during the oral arguments.

The key exchanges during the March 27 session involved the question of whether the “commerce clause,” which gives the federal government authority to regulate interstate commerce, can be used as justification for the requirement that every American must purchase health insurance. “Can you create commerce to regulate it?” asked Justice Anthony Kennedy?

Justice Kennedy—who is generally regarded as likely to cast the pivotal vote in the case—observed that the individual mandate “changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.” Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia pressed the same question, asking whether the federal government could require citizens to purchase other products. Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who indicated support for the Obama reform, questioned whether Verrilli had established a legal argument that would allow for the individual mandate without providing the federal government with unlimited powers to intervene in private affairs.

Legal analysts saw the March 27 hearing as a serious threat to the health-care legislation. Jeffrey Toobin, a CNN television analyst, characterized the day’s arguments as a “train wreck for the Obama administration.” At this point, Toobin said, the Obama reform appears to be “in trouble.”

The Supreme Court could rule that the Obama health-care reform is unconstitutional, thereby overturning the law. Or the Court could decide the case on more limited grounds, invalidating a portion of the sweeping legislation (such as the individual mandate) and thereby raising questions about whether the entire plan would remain practical. A ruling is expected in June.

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  • Posted by: Cornelius - Mar. 28, 2012 10:09 AM ET USA

    Color me skeptical, but the trajectory of U.S. government is firmly in the direction of expansion of powers. I hope I'm wrong, but I think the court will uphold. Yesterday's skeptical questioning was just a sop to throw to conservatives to persuade them that they're arguments have been considered so that they'll go peacefully into enslavement.

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