Day 1 HCR Supreme Court–Court Decides to Continue Forward

Supreme Court signals health care case won’t be held up over  technicality

Published March 26, 2012 |

Supreme  Court justices signaled Monday that the landmark case over the federal  health care law will probably not be held up over a technicality.

That technicality was the focus of the opening round of hearings Monday. The  issue before the judges was whether an obscure 1867 tax law prohibits lawsuits,  like the ones challenging the health care law, from going forward until someone  actually pays the insurance tax penalty — the penalty for not buying health  insurance, as required under the law.

If the justices decided the 1867 law applies here, opponents might have to  wait until early 2015, when the IRS collects its first payments from uninsured  taxpayers, to formally challenge the law.

But all parties in this case happen to agree, albeit for different reasons,  that the law doesn’t preclude the Supreme Court from moving forward.

And from the outset of arguments the justices appeared to be on the same  page, as the first day of hearings wrapped up Monday around noon — though  little was said about the propriety of the health care law itself.

The justices disputed the notion that the insurance penalty is tantamount to  a tax and therefore subject to that 1867 provision.

“This is not attached to a tax,” said Justice Stephen  Breyer.

Pressing the matter further, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the purpose of  the fine for non-compliance is to get people to leave the ranks of the  uninsured. “This is not a revenue raising measure. If it’s successful, no  revenue will be raised,” she said.

Attorney Robert Long was assigned to defend the provision at issue in  Monday’s hearing.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor at one point asked Long a question about what “parade  of horribles” would follow if the Court allowed the suits to proceed. Not  finding Long’s response satisfactory, Justice Antonin Scalia interrupted to say  there would be no such parade and that Long would be unable to answer the  question.

After the 90-minute opening hearing, some observers felt the Court would  ultimately be unanimous in ruling that the health law challenges before them  Tuesday and Wednesday should go forward.

The justices heard arguments as demonstrators from both sides gathered  outside the courthouse in Washington, D.C.

The second day of hearings on Tuesday will be devoted to the most prominent  dispute over the health care law — whether it is constitutional for the federal  government to require Americans to buy health insurance.

Click here for full coverage of the ObamaCare  hearings.

Fox News’ Lee Ross and Jake Gibson contributed to this  report.

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