|MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press|
But Roberts and Kennedy also asked enough pointed questions of the law's challengers to give the overhaul's supporters some hope. In any event, justices' questions at arguments do not always foretell their positions.
The court's decision, due in June, will affect the way virtually every American receives and pays for health care and surely will reverberate in this year's campaigns for president and
Not since 2000, when the court resolved the Bush v. Gore dispute over
The court wrapped up public arguments Wednesday on the overhaul, which aims to extend health insurance to most of the 50 million Americans now without it. The first and biggest issue the justices must decide is whether the centerpiece of the law, the requirement that nearly all Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional.
Wednesday's morning session was unusual in that it assumed, for purposes of argument, a negative answer to that central question. What should happen to other provisions, the justices and lawyers debated, if the court strikes down the requirement? If the justices are following their normal practice, they had not even met to take a preliminary vote in the case before all argument concluded.
Questions at the court this week showed a strong ideological division between the liberal justices who seem inclined to uphold the law in its entirety and the conservative justices whose skepticism about
The divide on the court reflects a similar split in public opinion about the law, which
Liberal and conservative justices alike appeared to accept the administration's argument that at least two important insurance changes are so closely tied to the must-have-coverage requirement that they could not survive without it: provisions requiring insurers to extend coverage to people with existing medical problems and limiting how much those companies can charge in premiums based on a person's age or health.
Less clear was whether the court would conclude that the entire law, with its hundreds of unrelated provisions, would have to be cast aside.
The justices also spent part of the day considering a challenge by 26 states to expansion of the federal-state