All the nation that pays attention is paying especial attention to the U.S. Supreme Court this week as it considers health care reform. Chris Henry is working on a story about a local woman who says she has insurance and has received benefits because of the new law. She will be taking a letter to Rob McKenna, Washington attorney general, asking him to drop the lawsuit he is in along with 25 other states. I wouldn’t look for McKenna to reconsider at this point.
When I had a chance to sidle up to the McKenna the governor candidate when he visited the area in January, he joked that the odds were 5-4, a reference to the idea that the decision could be a 5-4 split among the justices.
Calling it “The” decision is actually incorrect. Today the court hears arguments on whether it should be considering the law now, or wait until the mandate actually kicks in, which is 2014.
The mandate decision, whether Congress can write a law forcing you to buy something, is the key question, and those arguments are on Tuesday. On Wednesday is an argument over whether the entire law should be scrapped if the mandate is killed.
Should you like to be informed as the debate goes on, allow me
to provide you several links that will prepare for conversations
watercooler on Facebook.
PolitiFact.com provides the primer Everything you want to know about the health care law* and also gives you a chance to check out the truth or falsehood of several claims about the law. I’m not sure why there is an asterisk in the headline. Maybe it’s an unexplained admission that “everything” probably isn’t accurate.
On NPR’s All Things Considered is a piece about this week’s activities. The package begins with a story about a guy who sells places in line to get into the hearing for $36 an hour. The first customer placed someone in line on Friday, for Tuesday’s arguments. Further on Nina Totenberg responds that she doesn’t know which side will win, but Clarence Thomas is the only one predicted to be solidly against the act. Four justices — Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — are predicted to be locks in favor of the law and the constitutionality of Congress mandating what people have to buy. Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito are considered in play and Anthony Kennedy is seen as a swing vote. An interesting tidbit: Chief Justice John Roberts could end up voting to uphold the law if there is already a 5-3 vote among the associate justices, because a 5-4 decision “wouldn’t be good for the court as an institution of the country.”
Finally, on Salon, an academic explains some of the motivation behind how judges may rule. Andrew M. Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, goes into some detail explaining some of the difficulty for the justices in overturning the law. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do it, but there are consequences that go beyond the new things the law introduces.
When you read the follow-up news stories on each day’s arguments, you could very well get an inkling of where this will end up in June. Both sides have reason to be optimistic, and to worry.