U.S. Supreme Court

Justices Appear Likely to Decide Health Care Case Now Rather than Later


U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared likely to move on to the constitutional issues in the challenge to the Obama administration’s health care law as they considered arguments this morning that the case was brought too soon.

An appointed lawyer, Robert Long of Covington & Burling, had argued that the case could not be heard until 2015, when taxpayers who fail to buy health insurance will be required to pay a penalty. He argued the penalty was a tax under an 1867 law that bars courts from considering tax challenges before the tax is collected.

The Washington Post, SCOTUSblog and the New York Times say the court appears likely to rule against Long. He was appointed to argue the case because the Obama administration and lawyers for the challengers—26 states and private parties—agree that the law does not bar review at this time.

SCOTUSblog began its story this way: “When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. commented at the end of Monday’s first day of hearings on the health care law, ‘We’ll continue argument on this case tomorrow,’ it seemed to have a secondary meaning even if he did not intend it. The comments and questions of the justices during the 89-minute exchange left the distinct impression that they are prepared to rule on the constitutionality of the mandate that individuals must buy health insurance, and not push the issue off into the future.”

The court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the insurance mandate on Tuesday.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Day One of Health Arguments Is ‘Boring Jurisdictional Stuff’; Which Justices Are in Play?”

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