Day One Of The Supreme Court's Epic Obamacare Case Is OVER — Here's What Happened

Supreme Court

Photo: AP

The Supreme Court just wrapped up the first day of oral arguments on President Obama’s 2010 healthcare overhaul, the beginning of a landmark case that could determine the fate of the president’s biggest legislative achievement just months before he is up for re-election. Monday’s arguments, over whether the court even has the authority to hear the Obamacare case yet, were actually sort of a warm-up round. The court will get to the meat of the case tomorrow, when it hears arguments on the individual mandate, which requires uninsured Americans to either purchase healthcare coverage or pay a fee. 

Today’s 90-minute hearing focused on an 1867 tax law called the Anti-Injunction Act, which prevents people from challenging a tax law before they have paid that tax. 

Lawyers for both the Obama administration and the Obamacare challengers — 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses — argue that the 1867 law doesn’t apply, because the individual mandate imposes a fee, not a tax. But the Supreme Court appointed an outside lawyer to argue that the Affordable Care Act levies a tax, so challenges to the law cannot be made until the individual mandate takes effect in 2014. 

A transcript from today’s hearing indicates that Supreme Court justices from both ends of the ideological spectrum were sceptical that the Anti-Injunction Act should prevent them from deciding on Obamacare.

The court will hear other arguments before it decides on anything, including the Anti-Injunction Act challenge. 

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear two hours of arguments on the individual mandate. On Wednesday, the court will wrap up a marathon six hours of hearings with a two-and-a-half-hour debate over whether the rest of the healthcare overhaul should stand or fall with the individual mandate.

Predictably, the scene outside of the Supreme Court has been a zoo for the past 24 hours, as spectators vie for the limited number of tickets available to hear the arguments. Protesters on both sides of the Obamacare argument have been demonstrating outside the court since Sunday, and most groups say they plan on staying until the arguments wrap up on Wednesday. 

Protesters with the Tea Party Patriots demonstrate against the healthcare law in front of the Supreme Court on Monday.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum makes a cameo on the Supreme Court steps Monday to tie opponent Mitt Romney to Obama's healthcare bill.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Protesters in favour of health care reform hold a counter-demonstration, led by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Anti-abortion demonstrators protest outside of the Supreme Court on Monday.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Supporters of Obama's healthcare law carry a painting of House Speaker John Boehner while rallying in front of the Supreme Court Monday.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Linda Door of Laguna Beach, Calif. protests against the health care reform law during a march in front of the Supreme Court Monday.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Doctors and medical students rally in support of Obama's health care reform law Monday morning.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

People have camped out in front of the Supreme Court to get tickets to the oral arguments.

AP Photo/J. David Ake

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