- (Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin Monday hearing three days of oral arguments for cases that question the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed under the Obama administration in 2010. Court watchers are split on how they think the court will decide the case.
"We're confident that it will be constitutional," said White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe on "Fox News Sunday."
Recent polls show a majority of Americans would like to see all or part of the law repealed. A March 17-18 Rasmussen Reports poll found that 56 percent of likely voters would somewhat favor or strongly favor repealing the law.
The most controversial aspect of the law is the requirement that every person (with a few exceptions) purchase health insurance, also known as the individual mandate. A February Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans, including 56 percent of Democrats, believe that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
Plouffe believes, though, that after the rest of the law goes into effect in 2014, most Americans will support the law after they have lived under it.
"I'm convinced that at the end of this decade Republicans are going to regret terming this 'Obamacare,'" Plouffe said.
At issue in the case is whether the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes," gives Congress the power to require individuals to purchase health insurance. The Court will also look at whether the requirement that employers provide health insurance violates the Commerce Clause, and whether the expansion of Medicaid and the requirement that states set up health care exchanges infringe on state's rights.
Conservative columnist George Will believes that the court will strike down the individual mandate because to not do so would bring an expansion of federal government power via the Commerce Clause.
The Supreme Court is "going to try, at long last, to see if there is any limiting principle on the ability of Congress to act simply because it asserts that whatever they're regulating has a substantial impact on interstate commerce. If there is no limiting principle, then the Madisonian architecture of limited government is gone and the federal government has an unlimited plenary police power," Will argued Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Commentator Cokie Roberts countered, though, that the Court will allow greater regulation of health care because everyone will need health care at some point in their life.
"Well health care is different," Roberts said. "We all will participate in the health care system one way or the other. The way that most people do is to go to the emergency room, which we all then end up paying for."
If Roberts reasoning is correct, Will answered, then it would allow the government to regulate almost every aspect of Americans' lives, because, "everyone uses food, shelter, clothing, energy, transportation. This is a comprehensive argument if you let it loose in this case."
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) does not support the law, but believes that the Supreme Court could uphold the individual mandate if it views the penalty for not purchasing health insurance as a tax, which is the Obama administration's argument in the case.
"Obama could actually win that argument that the fine is really just a tax and we're going to tax you to create a centralized health care system," Graham, who was a lawyer before joining the Senate, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Graham added, though, that he believes the law will remain unpopular even if the Court upholds it, saying, "I think the public will not like the substance any more if the Supreme Court agrees with the Obama administration on the tax."
Graham also joked about when Vice President Joe Biden was accidentally caught on an open mic using an obscenity to describe how he felt after the health care bill was signed into law.
"The vice president whispered to the president when he signed the bill, two years ago, 'this is a big f-ing deal.' Well, now it's become a big f-ing mess for the Democratic Party and the country as a whole."