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Why Obamacare Will Be Decided on Constitutionality

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 28, 2012 9:40 AM

If there's one thing that court watchers are agreeing on after the first day of oral arguments in the health care challenge, it's that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether Obamacare is constitutional.

Though this seems like an obvious outcome, it's not. Courts cannot rule on any question they so desire. Instead, their power is governed by a set of legal principles and statutory law. In this particular instance, there has been some question as to whether the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) prevents the states from bringing the health care challenge before April 2015.

The AIA is an 1867 law that says taxpayers cannot challenge taxes until they become due. Under the individual mandate, individuals who do not purchase insurance will be assessed a fee. At one point, the Obama administration had argued that this fee is a tax, explains the New York Times. As such, the AIA barred any challenge until the fee was actually collected.

The government eventually dropped this argument, and both parties want the suit to be decided on the merits. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court appointed a private attorney to spend most of Monday arguing that the law applies.

If the Supreme Court finds that the AIA applies, then it cannot decide whether Obamacare is constitutional. However, yesterday's oral arguments suggest that the Court is unconvinced. The justices "seemed ready to proceed to the main question," reports the Times. Questioning also indicated that the AIA is not a bar to the suit, notes SCOTUSblog.

It appears that the Supreme Court is ready to rule. We should know whether Obamacare is constitutional by the beginning of the summer.

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