Audio: Alito questions solicitor general on mandate as tax

The Supreme Court on Monday seemed to be leaning against a procedural ruling that would postpone a decision until after 2014 on whether the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional.

Monday’s session, which launched three days of oral arguments in the case, also highlighted a potential weakness in the Obama administration’s defense of the healthcare law’s mandate that people buy insurance.


The Justice Department says the mandate is constitutional, in part, under Congress’s power to levy taxes.

But in urging that the justices should not postpone a decision until the mandate takes effect, sometime after 2014, the administration has had to argue that the mandate is not a tax.

Justice Samuel Alito raised the issue as Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. argued Monday that the fine is a not a tax.

"Today you're arguing that the penalty is not a tax," said Alito. “Tomorrow you’re going to be back, and you’re going to be arguing that the penalty is a tax."

Click here to read more on the court's healthcare hearings at The Hill.