Does Obamacare Have a Supreme Court Swing Vote?

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page checks in on the Affordable Care Act arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, asking whether the court's man in the middle is looking for reasons to knock down the health care law or save it.

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President Barack Obama (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page checks in on the Affordable Care Act arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, asking whether the court's man in the middle is looking for reasons to knock down the health law or save it.

Obamacare faced a tough crowd at the U.S. Supreme Court last week. But those tough, probing questions from Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's key swing voter, give defenders of the Affordable Care Act reasons to have hope.

It is always unwise to read too much into the questions the justices ask during arguments. But at this point, it seems likely that Obamacare's fate will hinge on its least popular feature, according to polls: the individual mandate that requires the uninsured to buy health insurance or face a fine.

The issue pressed by Kennedy's questions, in particular, was whether there is a "limiting principle" that will prevent the government from forcing us to buy other things that might be good for us — like, say, health club memberships or healthy vegetables like broccoli.

But as Kennedy's tough questioning persisted, he sounded increasingly like he was searching less for ammunition than for reassurance. Was he looking for holes in the administration's argument in order to knock it down or to help him prepare arguments in its defense?

Read Clarence Page's entire column at the Chicago Tribune.

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