The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare, the administration's massive overhaul of the nation's health system.
Arguments will be heard in March, with a ruling in June in the midst of the 2012 presidential election campaign. The court has set aside an extraordinary five and a half hours for arguments on four aspects of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. The central issue is whether the federal government can force all Americans to buy health insurance, even against their will.
"[S]ince the 1930s, Congress has pushed its authority further and further, and courts have refused to enforce the constitutional limits," commented Pacific Legal Foundation's principal attorney Timothy Sandefur on Monday. We agree with Mr. Sandefur that if the mandate is upheld, it would mean, "Washington bureaucrats could essentially impose any kind of legal duty they feel like passing," which directly contradicts the founders' establishment of a federal government of limited powers.
Two hours of hearing will be devoted to whether the mandate exceeds Congress' constitutional authority. Another 90 minutes will feature arguments on whether the mandate can be severed from the balance of the law if that aspect is ruled unconstitutional. An hour each will be given to whether withholding Medicaid payments to states for noncompliance is permitted, and on whether challenges to Obamacare's taxing authority are premature before taxes are collected in 2015.
Although the 11th Circuit Court determined the rest of Obamacare can be left intact if the mandate is thrown out, the high court agreed to hear arguments from the government and from plaintiffs, who claim otherwise, contending that if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the entire law must be also. If the court agrees, its finding could be an all or nothing decision.
The case, brought by 26 states, is the only one of four appellate cases challenging the law to reach the high court. Court observers differ in predicting the outcome, which promises to be a landmark decision, either way. We agree with most of the public that the law is ill-advised, and with the constitutional scholars who say it exceeds Congress' legitimate authority.