Going into Tuesday morning’s Supreme Court arguments, there was decently widespread agreement that the health reform law’s mandated purchase of insurance would survive the Court’s questioning. One poll released Monday, of 69 former Supreme Court clerks and attorneys who had argued there, found that 65 percent expected the provision to be upheld. On InTrade, odds hovered just about 67 percent.
But when the Court let out after two hours of oral arguments on the individual mandate, observers seemed a lot less certain. Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that he thought the arguments were a “trainwreck” for the administration, predicting now that the provision would get struck down. Donald Verrilli, who represented the Obama administration, stumbled over his words in his opening statement while Paul Clement, representing the law’s opponents, delivered a strong performance. On InTrade, the odds of the mandate being overturned shot up to 55 percent.
“I’ve been cautiously optimistic all along and today only pushed me a bit in that direction,” Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told me when I caught him coming out of the Supreme Court. “I think the federal government failed to provide a constitutionality limiting principle.”
“Limiting principle” is a phrase that came up a lot in the Supreme Court Tuesday morning - 15 times, according to the transcript. It’s a legal concept you’ll probably hear a lot about in this afternoon’s analysis.
When courts review a new application of Congress’s constitutional authority, they historically wanted to see the government articulate a clear limit to those powers - they look for, in legal jargon, a “limiting principle.”
“If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive,” writes SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston. “ But if he does not, the mandate is gone.”
Is the health-care law good for small businesses? Olga Khazan reports:
Mike Roach, the owner of Paloma Clothing in Portland, Ore., says health care reform has already helped his business’s bottom line — even though the law hasn’t been fully rolled out yet. The Affordable Care Act’s small business tax credit has shaved $5,500 off his company’s health-care premiums and allowed Roach to keep his workers on a good-quality plan even as costs rise.
Now, he looks forward to 2014, when a state-based exchange might allow him to negotiate even better rates.
“The new health care law has already started helping us,” Roach said. “Overturning it would send us back to the dark ages.”
But in Waco, Texas, the owner of an air-conditioning installation company, whose young employees tend to opt not to sign up for health plans, said he fears that the cost of providing adequate coverage under the law will increase his overhead and drive up the end-cost of his products.