Updated 03/29/2012 10:35 AM
Supreme Court hears arguments over health care bill's future
The Supreme Court holds two sessions to review President Obama's health care overhaul. The justice's are debating whether the law can go into effect if the individual mandate portion is struck down. YNN's Erin Billups is in Washington, D.C. and has the details.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Supreme Court justices took in a third and final day of oral arguments over President Barack Obama's signature health care law on Wednesday morning.
The day's focus was on whether the rest of the law can take effect if the so-called individual mandate is struck down.
Among the possibilities, justices could decide to either uphold the entire law, strike it all down, rip out the individual mandate but uphold the rest, or pick and choose in a piecemeal fashion that neither the Obama administration nor the plaintiffs want to see happen.
"My approach would say if you take the heart out of the statute, the statute's gone," said Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
"If you toss out the mandate, that's what made it affordable. It fails in and of itself," said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
"There is no way that this court's decision is not going to distort the congressional process. Whether we strike it all down or leave some of it in place, the congressional process will never be the same," said Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "So why should we say, it's a choice between a wrecking operation, which is what you are requesting, or a salvage job?"
While the attorneys general representing some of the 26 states challenging the law left the courts feeling confident, supporters of the law say it is too soon to declare a winner, pointing to skepticism expressed by conservative Justice Samuel Alito.
"What would your fallback position be if we don't accept the proposition that if the mandate is declared unconstitutional, the rest of the act, every single provision, has to fall?" said Alito.
"Expressing that degree of skepticism, that gives me a great deal of optimism," said Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress.
Across the bench, the justices also seemed hesitant to take on the task of deciding what might stay in the law and what might go if the mandate that’s forcing everyone to get health care is taken out.
"If Congress doesn't want the provisions that are not affected to stand, Congress can take care of it," said Ginsburg.
Afternoon arguments went longer than the scheduled hour. Debate centered around whether the law goes too far in making states expand Medicaid coverage for low-income Americans by threatening the loss of federal aid if they do not comply.
The states argue the law is coercive.
"This is the paramount issue of our time with regards to federalism," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Those supporting the law said that states do have a choice, they just don't like it.
"[It] doesn't mean the state's couldn't opt out if they wanted to. It just means they have to remain politically accountable to their constituents," said Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra.
A final court decision is expected to be announced in late June. It looks likely that the pivotal votes will come from Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts.