Sen. Lee addresses Utah press on the Supreme Court and Obamacare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Mike Lee spoke with members of the Utah press today concerning the current hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly referred to by Lee and the Act’s disputants as “Obamacare.”

Lee was able to attend the high court’s hearing today in his capacity as a senator and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said the Supreme Court had given both sides of the debate one hour to present their case on the individual mandate element detailed in the Affordable Care Act. One hour was given the U.S. Solicitor General, and 30 minutes each given to the respondents in the matter being considered.

The legality of the mandate under the Constitution was challenged by Utah and 25 other states in a lawsuit brought against the federal government. The question surrounding the mandate is whether or not the government has the power to force individuals to buy a particular product or service, or face potential penalties if they do not.

“Never before has the Congress ever mandated the people buy anything,” Lee said.

According to his personal observation of particular court justices, Lee said he felt they were “erring on the side of skepticism” concerning the constitutionality of the mandate.

Of the Supreme Court Justices who Lee said he believes will vote against the individual mandate are Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., John G. Roberts and Clarence Thomas.

Lee expects Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to vote in favor of the mandate.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is considered a possible swing vote. However, due to language he used while addressing the legality of the mandate, Lee said he had hope Kennedy was skeptical of the subject’s constitutionality.

The judges’ individual opinions on a case tend to be brought out by the questions they ask, Lee said.

While eight of the nine justices asked questions throughout the two hour proceedings, Lee noted Thomas remained silent.

Lee said he anticipates a close 5-4 vote by the justices in opposition to differing aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Still, the final results of the Supreme Court’s ruling may not be known until the end of June, he added.

In connection to the Affordable Care Act, a question was raised concerning Lee’s recent endorsement of Republican presidential candidate-hopeful Mitt Romney. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney passed a similar healthcare legislation in his state. Fellow Republican nominee-hopeful Rick Santorum decried so-called “Romneycare,” saying it was an inspiration for Obamacare.

Lee said what Romney had done was within the rights of an individual state to do – determine for itself what kind of healthcare it wanted. If the Affordable Care Act allowed the states to determine whether or not they wished to participate in the national program on an individual basis, then he might not be so opposed to it.

Instead, the federal government, particularly Congress, Lee said, is seeking to exercise power over the state where none such power exists under the Constitution, and that was the debate that had brought the Affordable Care Act to the U.S. Supreme Court.

mkessler@stgnews.com

twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright 2012 St. George News

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