The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared skeptical Tuesday that a key component of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care law is constitutional, the Pioneer Press said.
In an intense interrogation of the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the justices posed repeated and largely unanswered questions about the limits of federal power, the article said.
Afterward, the court seemed split on the same questions that has divided political leaders and the country: whether the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, the Press said.
The health care law championed by Obama and passed by a Democratic- controlled Congress in 2010 may need to receive a judgment that there is something unique about the health care market that allows such regulation.
Several justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, seemed receptive that parts of the law can survive even if the centerpiece is found unconstitutional, The Associated Press said.
When Washington attorney Paul Clement argued the whole law should fall, even conservative justices questioned whether that would have been Congress' intent, USA Today said.
Roberts said many provisions in the bill "have nothing to do with any of the things we're talking about" as being tied to the requirement that most Americans buy insurance. But he also noted many of them were needed to get the entire bill passed, thereby tying them to the whole law.
The justices currently are considering at least three options: Keeping the rest of the law intact, eliminating the insurance market changes that are dependent on the mandate, or killing the entire law. They could also invent a solution of their own making, USA Today said.