The Supreme Court takes on 'ObamaCare': Will it hurt the president?

The nation's highest court will weigh the constitutionality of the president's signature achievement — and the 2012 election could hang in the balance

President Obama
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

It's official. On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will consider the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act during its current term. Arguments will likely be held in March 2012, with a decision handed down by the end of June. The Supreme Court has reserved 5.5 hours for argument in this case — a modern record. There are four key issues the court will weigh: (1) The constitutionality of the individual mandate, which requires Americans to have health insurance; (2) Whether the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is struck down; (3) Whether the Anti-Injunction Act prevents a challenge to the mandate in the first place; and (4) Whether the law's expansion of Medicaid is constitutional. That culmination of the legal battle over health-care reform will likely be the "most dramatic constitutional confrontation in recent memory," and the case will be decided during the height of President Obama's re-election campaign. Is the timing a boon for Obama — or will it ruin his re-election chances?

It all depends how the court rules: If the Supreme Court ends up supporting "ObamaCare," Obama can claim vindication for the remainder of his re-election campaign, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. If the court strikes the law down, that's fatal for Obama's campaign. In one fell swoop, he'd lose his signature legislative achievement, and would have to spend the next several months trying to explain that embarrassing loss. "And explaining is not winning."

"Breaking: SCOTUS to review 'ObamaCare,' individual mandate this term"

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Well, most signs point to a win for Obama: The Obama administration is betting that a favorable ruling will vindicate the president after years of "attacks on the law's constitutionality," says Massimo Calabresi at TIME. That may be a wise bet. A D.C. Court of Appeals opinion written last week by conservative judge Laurence Silberman was a major blow to those who argued that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. And don't forget an "equally devastating opinion" by former Clarence Thomas clerk Jeffrey Sutton at the 6th Circuit Court. With such "conservative stalwarts" on Obama's side, there's good reason to believe "Obama will get a win" at a crucial moment in the presidential campaign.

"SCOTUS to hear 'ObamaCare' before election"

Regardless, this case won't swing the election: Let's assume the Supreme Court reaches its decision at the very end of June 2012, says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post. That still leaves more than four months before the election — a "very long time in politics, especially for something that won't have any immediate tangible effect on people's lives." Voters have short memories. The decision will be critically important for the future of health care in the U.S., "but not for the 2012 elections."

"The Supremes will take on health care. But will it matter in 2012?"

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