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Key Justices Skeptical of Health Care Mandate

By Erin McPike - March 28, 2012

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After the oral arguments, top Democratic officials went on defense, urging the media not to proclaim a decision before one has been made.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that lines of questioning do not necessarily indicate the ruling justices will hand down later -- in this case, sometime during the summer, possibly in June.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a press briefing from Seoul on Tuesday that President Obama and his staff feel confident that the individual mandate is constitutional, and Carney reminded reporters that the idea of mandate was originally cultivated by conservatives.

But Carney hedged his assessment of court proceedings, not wanting to say whether he or the president thought the court would uphold the provision; instead, he said they’ll just have to wait and see.

“The president feels that this is something for the court to decide, not for us to weigh in on directly,” Carney said. “He's aware of the progress that's being made and I'm sure will follow it with interest.”

Later, in response to a question, he said Obama and his advisers “believe that the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is established and we're confident that it will be upheld by the Supreme Court.” But he then hedged again, saying, “We'll see how the court decides.”

With the health care law back in the spotlight, congressional Republicans are taking advantage, trying to stir up more opposition. A top Senate Republican leadership aide explained: “The more Obamacare is in the news, the better it is for its opponents. Wall-to-wall coverage of court action this week means that the national conversation is about something Democrats would prefer not to discuss.”

And so a large group of Republican senators held an online town-hall meeting Tuesday, asking their constituents to send in their questions and complaints about the law.

On Monday, the oral arguments centered on the Anti-Injunction Act and whether the court could take up the issue before the law is fully implemented. The justices signaled that they would not defer a decision on the case based on that technicality. On Wednesday, the court will take up a broader question of whether the law can survive if the individual mandate is struck down. 

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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