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Justice Anthony Kennedy

The Supreme Court is deliberating on various aspects of President Obama’s healthcare law this week, and lawyers for both sides have tailored many of their arguments toward one justice: Anthony Kennedy.

It is not a stretch to say that Kennedy, often the swing vote on the high court, will probably decide the future of American healthcare.

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That is why every comment, question, sigh or raised eyebrow from Kennedy this week will be scrutinized to assess his thinking and which way he is leaning.

A Google search for “Anthony Kennedy and healthcare” produces 2.5 million results. That number will surely rise in coming days and weeks. 

Critics of Obama’s law say they have politics on their side because the Roberts court has five Republican-appointed justices. Kennedy, however, has disappointed the right many times, prompting some conservatives to regret President Reagan’s move to appoint him a generation ago.

Legal experts, by and large, give the Obama administration a slight edge on precedents that will be cited this week. Some of those prior decisions have found that Congress has a lot of discretion to pass whatever laws it wishes to. 

Others experts caution that this case is like no other, and claim that trying to predict its outcome is a waste of time.

Legal scholars say the public should expect the unexpected. They note, for example, that Justice Antonin Scalia could back the administration because he previously supported the federal government in a case involving medical marijuana.

But political realities are hard to ignore. The odds are that the high court will decide this case on a 5-4 count, with Kennedy being the deciding vote yet again.