Three days of historic arguments on challenges to President Obama's national health care law kick off today, with 90 minutes of debate on a rather mundane issue: the Anti-Injunction Act.
The core question facing the Supreme Court this week in the suit initiated by 26 states led by Florida and the National Federation of Independent Business is whether Congress exceeded its authority by enacting a mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. But under the Anti Injunction Act, any challenges would have to wait until after individuals actually start paying penalties -- which would effectively put off any constitutional challenges until 2015.
On this issue, both the states challenging the law and the Obama administration agree that the Anti Injunction Act shouldn't apply in this case. Delaying a decision on the ultimate constitutionality of the mandate for at least another three years would create much uncertainty for states considering whether or not to implement the health care law.
Because the sides agree, the court appointed an attorney to make the case that the Anti-Injunction Act does apply here, a position taken in an opinion out of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Though this morning’s arguments don’t concern the underlying merits of the challenges, in order for the Anti-Injunction Act to apply, the mandate would have to be seen as a tax. Thus, there is some overlap with one of the key defenses the Obama administration is offering for the mandate – that it is a constitutional exercise of the taxing power. So we may get some clue as to the justices' thinking on the tax issue.
I'm on hand at the Supreme Court for the arguments, which are scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., but there are no electronic devices allowed in the courtroom. So check this space for updates after the arguments wrap up.
In the meantime, you can read the Washington Examiner's package previewing oral arguments and my post on how liberals are laying the groundwork to attack any ruling to overturn the law as a purely political exercise.