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Joshua Green

What if the Supreme Court says no to the health care law?

Health coverage could be salvaged, but not Obama’s reputation

IN THE weeks leading up to the Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health care law, which concluded on Wednesday, a view emerged among court watchers and political insiders of both parties that the law would likely be upheld. A survey of Supreme Court lawyers and former clerks gave only a 35 percent probability that the mandate for people to purchase health insurance - the linchpin of the law - would be struck down. The provocative view in Washington when oral arguments began on Monday was that the vote to uphold could be lopsided.

By Tuesday afternoon, no one was espousing that view. The court’s five conservative justices, including Anthony Kennedy, the presumed swing vote, expressed powerful reservations about the mandate’s constitutionality, and the solicitor general, Donald Verrilli Jr., did a notably poor job of defending it. The justices appeared to take the view that Congress had improperly attempted to regulate “inactivity’’ - not buying health insurance - under the Commerce Clause. “A train wreck for the Obama administration,’’ was how CNN’s legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, characterized it. “This law looks like it’s going to be struck down.’’ The court is expected to issue its decision by the end of June.

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