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By David G. Savage
March 28, 2012, 8:35 a.m.
The Supreme Court's conservative justices said Wednesday they are prepared to strike down President Obama’s healthcare law entirely.
Picking up where they left off Tuesday, the conservatives said they
thought a decision striking down the law's controversial individual
mandate to purchase health insurance means the whole statute should fall
The court’s conservatives
sounded as though they had determined for themselves that the 2,700-page
measure must be declared unconstitutional.
"One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto," said Justice Antonin Scalia.
Agreeing, Justice Anthony Kennedy
said it would be an "extreme proposition" to allow the various
insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down.
Meanwhile, the court's liberal justices argued for restraint. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court should do a "salvage job," not undertake a “wrecking operation." But she looked to be out-voted.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said
they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or
fall in total. Along with Justice Clarence Thomas, they would have a majority to strike down the entire statute as unconstitutional.
An Obama administration lawyer, urging caution, said it would be
"extraordinary" for the court to throw out the entire law. About 2.5
million young people under age 26 are on their parents' insurance now
because of the new law. If it were struck down entirely, "2.5 million of
them would be thrown off the insurance rolls," said Edwin Kneedler.
The administration indicated it was prepared to accept a ruling that
some of the insurance reforms should fall if the mandate were struck
down. For example, insurers would not be required to sell coverage to
people with preexisting conditions. But Kneedler, a deputy solicitor
general, said the court should go no further.
But the court's conservatives said the law was passed as a package and must fall as a package.
The justices are scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon to debate the law's Medicaid expansion.
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