Legal precedents to clash as health care law goes to high court

By | Paige Winfield Cunningham

As President Obama’s health care law heads for an epic Supreme Court showdown this month, the administration and its opponents are struggling to convince the court that it can rule in their favor without upsetting years of precedent or opening the door to all sorts of mischief.

With three full days of arguments set to begin March 26, the government has the tough task of arguing that the justices can uphold the federal government’s power to force all Americans to buy insurance without giving legal sanction to other mandates, such as forcing everyone to buy healthy food or join a gym.

But the more than two dozen states suing to overturn the law face a tall hurdle of their own: convincing the court that it can strike down new Medicaid rules embedded in the law without giving the states carte blanche to ignore the strings that are attached routinely to federal spending on such items as education, transportation and the legal drinking age.

The challenge for each side, analysts say, is to find a “limiting principle” that at least five justices will embrace. When courts consider whether the government is acting within constitutional boundaries, they want a clear limit to its powers, court watchers say.

“The states say this is a unique situation, it doesn’t apply anywhere else,” said Timothy S. Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. “Well, that’s exactly the same argument the federal government is making to the minimum-coverage argument. I think both sides have their limiting-principle problem.”

Read the complete article at The Washington Times.

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