SCOTUS Wraps Day 2 on ObamaCare (Update: O-Care in ‘Grave, Grave Trouble’?)
March 27, 2012 - 9:53 am
SCOTUSblog provides a brief recap:
If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive. If he does, he may take Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., along with him. But if he does not, the mandate is gone. That is where Tuesday’s argument wound up — with Kennedy, after first displaying a very deep skepticism, leaving the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior.
If the vote had been taken after Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., stepped back from the lectern after the first 56 minutes, and the audience stood up for a mid-argument stretch, the chances were that the most significant feature of the Affordable Care Act would have perished in Kennedy’s concern that it just might alter the fundamental relationship between the American people and their government. But after two arguments by lawyers for the challengers — forceful and creative though they were — at least doubt had set in. and expecting the demise of the mandate seemed decidedly premature.
Earlier in the day, the mandate faced a series of tough questioning from Justice Kennedy:
It is not clear whether it will be struck down, but the questions that the conservative Justices posed to Clement were not nearly as pressing as the ones they asked to Solicitor General Verrilli. On top of that, Clement delivered a superb presentation in response to the more liberal Justices’ questions. Perhaps the most interesting point to emerge so far is that Justice Kennedy’s questions suggest that he believes that the mandate has profound implications for individual liberty: he asked multiple times whether the mandate fundamentally changes the relationship between the government and individuals, so that it must surpass a special burden. At this point, the best hope for a fifth or sixth vote may be from the Chief Justice or Justice Alito, who asked hard questions to the government, but did not appear to be dismissive of the statute’s constitutionality.
Kennedy tends to be a weathervane, but does also tend to side with individual liberties over government power. This is going to be a close run thing.
Update: CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin attended today’s hearing. He says that based on the questions the justices asked, ObamaCare is likely to be struck down.
“This law looks like it’s going to be struck down. I’m telling you, all of the predictions, including mine, that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong,” Toobin said Tuesday on CNN. “I think this law is in grave, grave trouble.”
Toobin’s observation came on the second day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.