The nation's highest court will finally argue the constitutionality of Presiden't Obama's signature legislative achievement, the new health care law, an issue at the center of the battle for the White House and Congress.
The Supreme Court will hear extensive oral arguments on the constitutionality of the highly-charged Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is viewed unfavoriably by half of Americans on March 26 through 28. A final written opinion will likely be delivered in June 18, five months before the presidential election and months before the law is enforced.
The Obama adminstration faces a court held 5-4 conservative justices.
The lawsuit brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business is the most high-profile Supreme Court case since Bush v. Gore.
The ACA mandates that every individual purchase health insurance coverage or pay a penalty of the law of $695 per adult and $347 per child.
If the individual mandate is declared constitutional, then for the first time in history, Americans will have to purchase a product to live in America.
Failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the health care bill could land people in jail, according to the non-partisan Joint Commitee on Taxation (JCT). The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain, 'acceptable health insurance coverage' and who choose to pay the bill's new individual mandate tax, are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including fines fo $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
Secondly, the law expands Medicaid by 16 million enrollees, meaning almost one in four Americans will be on Medicaid, the government program originally intended for our poorest citizens.
Finally, the the health reform conflicts with the separation of church and state. Under the law, every religious instituion, besides churches must cede to the Obama administration's regulatory definition because charities, church schools and hospitals are not 'religious' and would therefore have no right to the free excercise of religion. Religious institutions will have no protection from being forced into doctrinal violations commanded by the state.;
The Court will consider the individual mandate and define the legal merits of the case as it regards the Taxing Power and the Commerce Clause, and will determine when the rest of the law can survive if the mandate is struck down.
The Commerce Clause is the basis for the government's positon that the individual mandate is constitutional. Never before has the Commerce Clause been used to force a citizen to enter into a private contract with a private company. The individual mandate, could jeopardize the fabric of federalism in respect to what the federal government can do in legislation promoting interstate commerce.
The constitutional wreckage left by Obamacare is an assault on individual autonomy says political strategist Charles Krauthammer, " This constitutional trifecta - the state invading the autonomy of religoius institutions, private companies and the individual- should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy."
"The state treats private insureres the way it does government regulated monopolies and utilities under Obamacare, determining everything of importance," he says, "Insurers by definition set premiums according to risk, but under Obamacare the risk ratios (for age, gender, smoking, etc.) are decreed by Washington.This is nationalization in all but name, the insurer is turned into a middleman, subject to state control, and presidential whim."
If the court uphold healthcare reform law it would allow Democrats to accuse Republicans of being obstructionist, wasting two years fighting a law that is constituional, serve as an ultimate stamp of approval of the Democrat landmark healthcare refrom and buoy Obama to victory towards his second term.
If the court strikes down Obamacare it will ignite a political earthquake that would vindicate Repubican complaints of federal governemnt overreach and allow them to charge President Obama, a former constitutional law professor, with pushing his policies through unconstitutional means.
The White Houe and liberal advocacy organizations intend to frame the debate, encouraging rallies outside the court when the arguments take place, a prayer vigil and press conferences - including speeches by people with medical problems who could benefit from the law. Radio host will inteview healthcare advocates at 'radio row' that will be located at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.
Opponenets of the law are planning to rally on the Capitol grounds the second day of the court's arguments. Americas for Prosperity will host a 'Hands Off My Health' rally along with free market groups like Tea Party Express. Republican lawmakers including Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rep. Michelle Bachman of Minnesota are exped to addres the rally.
The case will shine massive media attention on the complaints about the law. Ultimately the question for the public is about who has the right leadership. Both parties will be inclined to make healthcare reform the defining issue during the election in November if any part of the reform is unconsitutional.