|MARK SHERMAN and PETE YOST, Associated Press|
On the third and last day of arguments, the justices appeared to accept the administration's argument that at least two important insurance reforms 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, also would have to be cast aside.
The justices also are spending part of Wednesday considering a challenge by 26 states to the expansion of the
The first of the day's two sessions 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 their questions, liberal justices
"What's wrong with leaving this in the hands of those who should be fixing this?" asked Sotomayor, referring to
For example, Ginsburg observed that the act deals with issues such as black lung disease.
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
"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
Opponents of the law, including
"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
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
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
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
"Purchase insurance in this case, something else in the next case," Chief
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.
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