The Two-Way
11:58 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Justices Seem OK With Leaving Some Parts Of Healthcare Law Alone

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 12:51 pm

Update at 12:08 p.m. ET. Everyone Had A Hard Go Of It Today:

NPR's legal correspondent Nina Totenberg tells Ari Shapiro that both sides had a tough go of it today.

During the final day of arguments, Supreme Court justices seemed split on the idea of striking the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, if its the "individual mandate" centerpiece was also found unconstitutional.

The headline, however, is that the conservative justices seemed "terribly concerned about the health insurance companies" and the liberal justices seemed concerned with "usurping Congress' powers."

Nina said that Paul Clement, representing the states, argued that the court should just throw away the whole law, because without the individual mandate, the law is "hollow shell."

Some of the justices were unconvinced. Justice Ginsburg said that at 2,700 pages, there were many things in the law that had nothing to do with the individual mandate. This should be a "salvage operation" not a "wrecking operation," said Ginsbur.

The bottom line, said Nina, is that anyone who thinks this court will not go as far as striking the whole law, should "think again."

"This court is dramatically more conservative than it has been in many, many decades," Nina said on the steps of the court. "It is quite prepared — as we've seen in other cases — to go farther than anyone expected it to."

Nina said if there are five votes to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional, it seemed like there were five votes to strike down the whole thing.

Repeating what we did yesterday and again on Tuesday, we'll watch for news from today's sessions and pass it along as soon as possible. Shots is taking the lead on rounding up NPR's coverage, which is also packaged here.

Our Original Post Continues:

During the final day of arguments, Supreme Court justices seemed to signal that that they would be amenable to a situation in which they overturn the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the 2010 legislation, while leaving the other parts of the law intact.

The AP reports that "the justices seemed skeptical of the position taken by Paul Clement, a lawyer for 26 states seeking to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act tossed out in its entirety."

The AP reports that was true of Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and even the more conservative justices on the court like Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

As we reported earlier, this is first of two arguments today. Later on today, the court will hear arguments on whether the federal government can require states to expand their Medicaid programs.

SCOTUSblog read things differently, saying "it is hard to see where this one is going." The blog says both sides, the government and states, faced skeptical questions from the justices.



Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.