Quantcast
  

Thursday, April 24, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 8 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Some justices seem open to saving parts of law

By Mark Sherman and Pete Yost

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:07 a.m. HST, Mar 28, 2012


WASHINGTON >> The Supreme Court signaled Wednesday that it could throw out other key parts of President Barack Obama's health care law if it first finds the individual insurance requirement unconstitutional.

On the third and last day of arguments, the justices appeared to accept the administration's argument that at least two important insurance changes are so closely tied to the insurance requirement that they could not survive without it.

Less clear was whether the court would conclude the entire law, with its hundreds of unrelated provisions, would have to be cast aside.

The justices also spent part of the day considering a challenge by 26 states to the expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income Americans, an important feature in the effort extending health insurance to an additional 30 million people.

The court's liberal justices made clear they will vote to uphold the Medicaid expansion, which would take in 15 million people with the federal government paying almost all the costs.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer voiced strong disagreement with the states' contention that the expansion of the joint state-federal program is unconstitutionally coercive.

"Why is a big gift from the federal government a matter of coercion?" Kagan asked.

The day's earlier session was unusual in that it assumed an answer to the central question in the historic health care case: that the requirement that Americans carry health insurance or pay a penalty will be struck down. In fact, if they follow their normal practice, the justices have not even met yet to take a preliminary vote in the case.

Audio of Wednesday morning's argument can be found at: http://apne.ws/GX1p23 .

In their questions, the liberal justices took issue with Paul Clement, the lawyer for the states seeking to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act tossed out in its entirety.

"What's wrong with leaving this in the hands of those who should be fixing this?" asked Sotomayor, referring to Congress.

Chief Justice John Roberts also spoke about parts of the law that "have nothing to do with any of the things we are" talking about.

For example, Ginsburg observed that the act deals with issues such as black lung disease.

"Why make Congress redo those?" she asked. "There are many things" that have "nothing to do with affordable health care."

But Clement said the court would be leaving "a hollow shell" if it decided to excise the several key provisions. "The rest of the law cannot stand," he contended.

Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy also asked hard questions of Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler that indicated they are at least considering Clement's arguments. Kneedler said that the only other provisions the court should kill in the event the mandate is stricken are revisions that require insurers to cover people regardless of existing medical problems and limit how much companies can charge in premiums based on a person's age or health.

Justice Antonin Scalia suggested many members of Congress might not have voted for the bill without the central provisions, and he said the court should not go through each and every page to sort out what stays and what goes.

"What happened to the Eighth Amendment?" Scalia asked, referring to the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. "You really expect us to go through 2,700 pages?"

As the arguments resumed Wednesday morning, a smaller group of demonstrators than on previous days gathered outside.

Supporters of the law held a morning news conference where speakers talked about the importance of Medicaid. And, marching on the sidewalk outside the court, supporters repeated chants they've used the past two days including "Ho, ho, hey, hey, Obamacare is here to stay." Most of their group departed not long after arguments began inside.

Opponents of the law, including Susan Clark of Santa Monica, Calif., also stood outside the court. Clark, who was wearing a three-cornered colonial-style hat, carried a sign that read "Obamacare a disaster in every way!"

"Freedom, yes. Obamacare, no," other opponents chanted.

The first two days of fast-paced and extended arguments have shown that the conservative justices have serious questions about Congress' authority to require virtually every American to carry insurance or pay a penalty.

The outcome of the case will affect nearly all Americans and the ruling, expected in June, also could play a role in the presidential election campaign. Obama and congressional Democrats pushed for the law's passage two years ago, while Republicans, including all the GOP presidential candidates, are strongly opposed.

But the topic the justices took up Wednesday only comes into play if they first find that the insurance mandate violates the Constitution.

The states and the small business group opposing the law say the insurance requirement is central to the whole undertaking and should take the rest of the law down with it.

The federal appeals court in Atlanta that struck down the insurance requirement said the rest of the law can remain in place, a position that will be argued by a private lawyer appointed by the justices, H. Bartow Farr III.

On Tuesday, the conservative justices sharply and repeatedly questioned the validity of the insurance mandate.

If the government can force people to buy health insurance, justices wanted to know, can it require people to buy burial insurance? Cellphones? Broccoli?

Audio for Tuesday's court argument can be found at: http://apne.ws/Hft6z3.

The court focused on whether the mandate for Americans to have insurance "is a step beyond what our cases allow," in the words of Justice Kennedy.

"Purchase insurance in this case, something else in the next case," Chief Justice Roberts said.

But Kennedy, who is often the swing vote on cases that divide the justices along ideological lines, also said he recognized the magnitude of the nation's health care problems and seemed to suggest they would require a comprehensive solution.

And Roberts also spoke about the uniqueness of health care, which almost everyone uses at some point.

"Everybody is in this market, so that makes it very different than the market for cars or the other hypotheticals that you came up with, and all they're regulating is how you pay for it," Roberts said, paraphrasing the government's argument.

Kennedy and Roberts emerged as the apparent pivotal votes in the court's decision.

___

Associated Press writers Jesse J. Holland and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.







 Print   Email   Comment | View 8 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

COMMENTS
(8)
You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
Changalang wrote:
It is all speculation. The main thing is that President Obama wins in any outcome.
on March 28,2012 | 06:51AM
Halemaumau wrote:
We need Obama like we need another China Gate.
on March 28,2012 | 09:51PM
Charliegrunt wrote:
"How could Congress be able to compel younger workers to contribute to Social Security but be limited in its ability to address health care? she wondered." Could it be because Social Security is paid for people who are working and their employers, whereas, people who are unemployed and illegal/undocumented workers do not have the means to pay for health insurance? In the former case, one gets back what they invested in. In the latter they get something they did not contribute to. She's a Supreme Court Justice?!
on March 28,2012 | 07:11AM
hybrid1 wrote:
Charliee - The congress set the precedent to compel younger workers to pay a fee for SS which is unique. The congress is only following that precedent for all to pay a fee for healthcare which is Unique. No one needs broccli...an absurd remark by Scalia...shame on him!
on March 28,2012 | 11:01AM
hybrid1 wrote:
Republicans have no solution, just weak, irrelevant criticizm. ..................The major reasons Obamacare will survive includes: ....1) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she found the debate over health care similar to an earlier, (precedent setting) age's debate about the Social Security retirement system. How could Congress be able to compel younger workers to contribute to Social Security, but be limited in its ability to address health care? ............................. 2) On the other hand, Ginsburg said, "The people who don't participate in this market are making it more expensive for those who do."..........."You could say that about buying a car," Scalia retorted, noting that if enough people don't buy cars the cost could go up..........But, unlike cars, almost everyone eventually will be required to use the health care system, Verrilli said in defense of the law. Without health insurance, he said, "you're going to the market without the ability to pay for what you're going to get."................................. 3) "I think it is true that if most questions in life are matters of degree ... the young person who is uninsured is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries. That's my concern in the case," Kennedy said. ....( I bet Kennedy will vote to keep Obamacare).
on March 28,2012 | 01:46PM
mohgth wrote:
The answer: Insurance companies and the politicians who gets paid off The questiuon: Who will make the most money should this law stand?
on March 28,2012 | 08:04AM
ufried wrote:
SO SAYETH THE LIBERAL ZOMBIES... THE ALMIGHTY GOVERNMENT KNOWS WHAT WE NEED!!!! WAKE UP
on March 28,2012 | 05:01PM
CloudForest wrote:
obamacare = communism and/or technocrats with unlimited power, either way it's wicked and soooooo un-American. Rationalizing it will never work no matter how many words, edicts or propaganda.
on March 28,2012 | 05:18PM
IN OTHER NEWS
Breaking News
Blogs
Political Radar
Phased in

Political Radar
Palolo v. Pauoa

Political Radar
Palolo v. Pauoa

Career Changers
Must Sea TV

Political Radar
HB 1700 — Day 4

Political Radar
Pass

Warrior Beat
Hammer time