The first impressions by observers fresh out of Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing on health reform were negative toward the administration’s chances to preserve the centerpiece of the law – the individual mandate.
That’s the provision of the Affordable Care Act that imposes a penalty for people who refuse to buy coverage.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin emerged from the courtroom and said, “This law looks like it is going to be struck down.”
He said the performance of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was defending the law for the Obama administration, was shockingly poor. Toobin described Verrilli as nervous during legal arguments, effectively leaving the four liberal justices to make points defending the law, the New York Times reported.
Toobin added that Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to be the only conservative member of the bench open to upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Toobin also called the administration’s arguments ”a train wreck.”
The basic argument of foes of the law: If the Affordable Care Act can compel you to buy insurance, can it compel you to buy something else that’s beneficial, such as broccoli?
During the hearing, Roberts asked if the government could compel the purchase of cellphones. And Justice Samuel Alito asked about forcing people to buy burial insurance.
Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that the 2010 Affordable Care Act invoked a power “beyond what our cases” have indicated the Congress possesses to regulate interstate commerce, the Washington Post reported.
“Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?” he asked.
Analysts usually consider the court to be divided between four liberals and four conservatives, with the conservative-leaning Kennedy as a swing vote. That would make his vote pivotal on the health care law. But none of the justices has proved totally predictable on any given case.
Georgia is one of 26 states fighting the Affordable Care Act in the reform case.
Here’s a Los Angeles Times wrap-up of the day’s arguments.