Supreme Court sounds ready to strike down key plank of Obama's health care law

theGRIO REPORT - The Supreme Court's conservative justices cast repeated doubts about the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law in a key hearing on Tuesday...

The conservative-leaning justices on the United States Supreme Court expressed strong skepticism Tuesday about the constitutionality of the requirement that every American get health insurance, signaling they may strike down a key plank of President Obama’s health care law.

In oral arguments on the law, four of the conservative-leaning justices repeatedly suggested President Obama and Congress had overstepped their power in mandating all Americans get health insurance or pay a fine. Among those four was Anthony Kennedy, the court’s frequent swing vote, who repeatedly suggested the federal government would effectively have the right to regulate anything if it can mandate people buy insurance.

“Are there any limits?” he asked during the two-hour hearing.

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If Kennedy and the other three justices who expressed doubts about the law hold that stance when the court ultimately issues a ruling in June, this part of the Affordable Care Act is very likely to be struck down. A fifth justice, Clarence Thomas, did not speak during the hearing, as is his custom, but is one of court’s most conservative members and is almost certain to vote against the law.

The mandate itself, while not very popular even among Democrats, is one of the core parts of the law. Obama administration officials argue the mandate helps make sure that health insurance markets operative effectively, and ensures reasonable prices for all Americans.

Legally, the mandate debate is critical because, if the court decides to strike down the mandate, it could invalidate the entire law. And that law includes a variety of key provisions that would expand health insurance to an estimated 30 million Americans, including seven million blacks, allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance till age 26, and stop many unpopular practices by insurance companies.

Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr