Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Legal analysts have been quick to call time of death for President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill in the aftermath of today’s epic Supreme Court battle arguments The conclusion is largely based on the questions asked by the Supreme Court justices during this morning’s hearing, over the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the focal point of the case against Obamacare. Analysts have also pointed to the surprisingly weak performance of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the lead lawyer for the Obama administration, as a sign that the healthcare reform law is doomed.
In particular, analysts have interpreted Justice Anthony Kennedy’s aggressive questioning as an indication that he is sceptical of the government’s argument that the individual mandate is constitutional. Kennedy is seen as the key swing vote that could decide the fate of the mandate.
But any attempt to determine Kennedy’s line of thinking is, at best, an educated guess. Unlike his more conservative colleagues, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Kennedy avoided hypothetical attacks about broccoli and burial insurance. Instead, his interrogation cut right to the heart of the Obamacare debate, with questions about whether or not the healthcare reform law fundamentally changes the relationship between the federal government and the American people.
This line of questioning suggests that Kennedy is genuinely weighing both arguments for and against the individual mandate, and may even indicate that he is building a defence in favour of upholding the provision, rather than against it, as most analysts have speculated.
In the end, the Obamacare death knell is probably premature. The Supreme Court is not expected to make a decision on the case until June, and any predictions about the outcome are, for the moment, pure speculation.
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