Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on one of the most controversial provisions of the health care law enacted by President Barack Obama’s administration, Reuters reports. Judges will listen to positions on whether Congress was right to pass a law making it mandatory for most people to buy health insurance. (Those already covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or their employers are not required to get extra insurance.) The court is due to rule on whether the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional, in June.
The Supreme Court is deeply split on ideological and political grounds, with the five conservative Republican-appointed justices often in the majority: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
The four liberal Democratic appointees are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
A looming point of interest for the 400 spectators who will crowd into the courtroom on Tuesday is whether that 5-4 division becomes evident or appears to splinter.
The New York Times offers this summary of the two sides of the Act’s debate:
The law’s challengers—26 states led by Florida, the National Federation of Independent Business and several individuals—present the central question as one of individual liberty. May the federal government, they ask, compel individuals not engaged in commerce to buy a product, here health insurance, from private companies?
The Obama administration, by contrast, urges the court to answer a different question. May Congress decide, in fashioning a comprehensive response to a national crisis in the health care market, to regulate how people pay for the health care they will almost inevitably need?