The Supreme Court just wrapped up the second day of oral arguments in the landmark case against President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, and reports from inside the courtroom indicate that the controversial law took quite a beating.
Today’s arguments focused around the central constitutional question of whether Congress has the power to force Americans to either pay for health insurance or pay a penalty.
According to CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, the arguments were “a train wreck for the Obama administration.”
“This law looks like it’s going to be struck down. I’m telling you, all of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong,” Toobin just said on CNN.
Toobin added that that the Obama administration’s lawyer, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, was unprepared for the attacks against the individual mandate.
“I don’t know why he had a bad day,” he said. “He is a good lawyer, he was a perfectly fine lawyer in the really sort of tangential argument yesterday. He was not ready for the answers for the conservative justices.”
In the aftermath of today’s arguments, Toobin and many other legal reporters agree that the Obamacare decision will come down to a fight between the nine Supreme Court justices.
According to reports from the courtroom, the four liberal justices seem inclined to uphold the law. But it is still unclear if the Obama administration’s legal team will be able to get a fifth vote.
The WSJ reports that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is considered the swing vote in the case, reportedly pushed Verrilli hard on his defence of the individual mandate, telling him that the government has a “very heavy burden of justification” to show where the Constitution gives Congress the power to force people to buy healthcare.
Tom Goldstein of SCOTUS blog sums up the end of the arguments:
Towards the end of the argument the most important question was Justice Kennedy’s. After pressing the government with great questions Kennedy raised the possibility that the plaintiffs were right that the mandate was a unique effort to force people into commerce to subsidise health insurance but the insurance market may be unique enough to justify that unusual treatment. But he didn’t overtly embrace that. It will be close. Very close.
Listen below to Solicitor General Verrilli nervously starting his opening argument on individual mandate (around 25 sec mark):
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