WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — The U.S. Supreme Court waded into the controversy over health care Monday, wrestling with the question: “is it constitutional for the government to force Americans to buy health insurance?”
It was democracy in action on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court. Protesters on both sides of the health care debate voiced their feelings as the nine justices of the nation’s highest court began hearing arguments about the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care law, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
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Inside the court the justices spent more than 90 minutes questioning attorneys about whether the requirement that Americans purchase health care insurance is constitutional.
Gregory Katsas was one of the attorneys asking that the law be struck down.
“There’s a requirement to buy heath insurance that’s what we’re challenging,” Katsas said.
The Obama health care bill has become a focal point of the presidential campaign, and of Senate and Congressional races around the country. If the justices uphold the president’s law it would give his re-election campaign a big boost. Republicans would benefit if it goes the other way.
A new CBS/New York Times poll on Monday found that 47 percent of Americans disapprove of the law, 30 percent strongly disapprove. On the other hand, 36 percent approve, but only 16 percent strongly approve.
A number of Republican senators were among those who were in the court for the historic day.
“This is an incredibly important moment in our history. It is pivotal and the question before the Supreme Court really has to do with our fundamental freedoms,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.
Those against “Obamacare” say it is unconstitutional to force people to buy health insurance. Those who support it say it’s crucial for them.
“It’s important for people to have health care and not be denied it if they have a pre-existing condition, especially in these economic times,” said Michelle Williams of the Families USA Foundation.
The Supreme Court justices will hear two more days of arguments. Some said this is the biggest case to go before them in decades.
They are expected to rule by early summer.
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