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26Mar/120

Obamacare Meets the Court

Today's the day. The Supreme Court begins four days of hearings on four aspects of the administration's health care reform. There's no such thing as instant gratification when it comes to these things, though. We won't have an opinion until the summer in all likelihood. And the courtroom is officially a twitter-free zone. A lot is already known about how both sides are going to make their arguments. But the spectacle this week is to see what can be determined about individual justices' questions, doubts, and leanings in the questions they raise. Audio of the hearings will be released by the end of each day of arguments. Fun times.

Here's a small sample of the overviews:

» Wonkbook: Absolutely everything you need to know about health-reform Supreme Court debut
» Kaiser Health News: The Health Law And The Supreme Court: A Primer For The Upcoming Oral Arguments
» Kaiser Health News: Scorecard: What The Health Law Has Delivered, Or Not

That ought to get you up to speed on the outline of the court's case and some objective merits of Obamacare's success or lack thereof to date. Not that the latter matters to the court ... but since most of us aren't forming our opinions of the law in constitutional terms, I happen to think its worth a review at this point. Make of it what you will.

If its a little bit of the pre-game tic-toc you want ...

» NY Times: In Health Care Case, Lawyers Train for 3-Day Marathon
» Wash. Post: Supreme Court to hear arguments on timing of health-care ruling

And there happens to be ample coverage of the lawyers who will be making the most noise this week ...

» NY Mag: The Paul Clement Court
» NY Times: A Lawyer Who Can Simplify the Complex Draws a Big One: Obama’s Health Overhaul

Jonathan Cohn has pretty much been building up to this point and here's a single instance of where he's opining these days ...

» New Republic: If Medicare Is OK, Obamacare Should Be Too

As for me, I've had my marker on the table for quite some time. I think the court strikes down the individual mandate ... even if it means a supposed "fractuous" 5-4 ruling. Roberts, et al can certainly make a logical argument that strikes a few chords of constitutional law. But for all intents and purposes, it will be another political ruling from this court.

Now, what that means for the rest of the law or the fate of health care reform as passed, still remains to be seen. Given that the grand bargain of health reform seemed contingent upon there being an individual mandate, I don't see how it survives without. Whether it could be salvaged with something like Paul Starr's recommendation for an individual mandate, we'll see how much room there is for that during the summer.

ADD-ON: Some more good reading from the twitter chatter that does exist ...

» The Atlantic: How Obamacare Will Be Settled: A Primer on the Commerce Clause
» ACA Litigation: Some things to look for tomorrow

CONCLUSION: Day one looks like the easiest of them all. Up for discussion today was whether the justices could or could not rule on a law that hasn't fully taken effect yet. And it seems that much of what took place was that the justices browbeat the very attorney they hired to argue that they shouldn't. Yeah. You read that right. Government for ya ...

In the first day of hearings at the Supreme Court over President Barack Obama's signature health care law, justices seemed skeptical Monday about arguments that they have no authority to decide the key issues now. Eight of the nine justices put challenging questions to Robert Long, the lawyer who argued for postponing a decision on the case.

That's from Politico's email after today's hearing. It's all downhill from here.

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