By Sam Baker - 03/27/12 08:50 AM EDT
In the three-day legal fight over President Obama’s healthcare law, Tuesday is the main event.
The Supreme Court will tackle the biggest question at stake in the landmark healthcare case — whether the law’s individual mandate is constitutional. And a massive Tea Party protest could take the public battle outside the courthouse to a new level, as well.
Hundreds of protesters, including both supporters and opponents of the healthcare law, rallied near the Supreme Court’s steps Monday, but the scene outside the court could get even more chaotic.
The group Tea Party Patriots is holding a rally in front of the court just as Tuesday’s hearings get under way, with a long list of prominent conservatives scheduled to attend that includes Reps. Michele BachmannMichele BachmannTrump says 2016 is the GOP's last chance to win Bachmann: Clinton will prosecute churches and nonprofits The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Minn.), Louie GohmertLouie GohmertGOP rep calls Clinton 'mentally impaired' GOP rep: Trump ‘courageous’ for giving Cruz speech GOP bill would block undocumenteds from military service MORE (R-Texas) and Steve King (R-Iowa). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is also scheduled to appear outside the courthouse Tuesday.
Inside, the justices will hear two hours of arguments over the mandate. Former Solicitor General Paul Clement is representing the 26 states that filed the historic legal challenge, arguing that the coverage requirement goes beyond Congress’s constitutional authority.
The states, along with the National Federation of Independent Business, say Congress went a step too far by requiring people to take part in an economic activity. The Constitution allows Congress to regulate commerce, they say, but not to “compel” it.
The Justice Department says the decision to go without insurance has an enormous effect on the economy because the cost of unpaid medical bills is shifted to taxpayers and people with insurance. The individual mandate simply regulates how and whether people pay for healthcare services they will inevitably need, the administration says.
The Justice Department has also focused increasingly on defending the mandate as part of a broader regulatory scheme. It is widely seen as essential to effectively implementing the healthcare law’s other reforms, including the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions.