So it begins
Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would hear arguments over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care law. The case will be heard in March 2012, with a decision expected by the end of June.
The justices announced they will hear an extraordinary five-and-a-half hours of arguments from lawyers on the constitutionality of a provision at the heart of the law and three other related questions about the act. The central provision in question is the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty.
In the modern era, the last time the court allotted anywhere near this much time for arguments was in 2003 for consideration of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. That case consumed four hours of argument. This argument may spread over two days, as the justices rarely hear more than two or three hours a day.
If indeed the SCOTUS strikes down the individual mandates as unconstitutional, it would create quite a political circus a mere four months ahead of the general election. Many would surmise that would sink the Obama re-election campaign, but is that truly the case? As we've heard in several debates over the past few months, the top issue of many (if not all) of the GOP Presidential hopefuls is repealing Obamacare. Well if the SCOTUS takes that off the table by striking down the law as unconstitutional, what then? Obviously President Obama will still have a record of poor economic policies and thus there will remain a strong case to vote him out of office. Either way, the law being struck down would be an embarrassment to the current administration.
On the flip side, all hope would not be lost if the Supreme Court upholds the law. If the Republicans can win the White House (50-50 right now, in my opinion) and regain control of the Senate (need to flip four seats), the Republican-controlled Congress could pass a repeal measure for the GOP President to sign it. Of course, that in and of itself would be a bitter fight in the likely event Republicans do not have a "Super Majority" (60-40) in the Senate. But with a simple 51-49 majority, the GOP could use the reconciliation process (i.e. the "Nuclear Option") to ram a repeal bill through. Oh, and if some squishy Republicans start to become concerned with any political fallout? Just remind everyone that the Democrats were never afraid to use such a process while controlling the Senate.