Today's Obamacare oral argument

March 26, 2012 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

I just left the Supreme Court building having heard an hour and a half of oral arguments on whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear the Obamacare cases in the first place. The question arises under the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars courts from hearing cases brought “for the purpose of restraining the collection of a tax.” As I predicted, much of the argument centered on whether this case is brought “for that purpose” or for the purpose of striking down the Mandate itself, a point Gregory Katsas, the plaintiffs’ attorney, emphasized. It was interesting that the justices asked relatively few questions, and avoided using the word “mandate” until about halfway through, when Chief Justice Roberts used it, followed by a few others. But Justice Ginsburg insisted on calling it the “must buy provision.” Also interesting was that all the justices seemed extremely skeptical of the idea that the Mandate is an exercise of Congress’ taxing power. Justice Alito and Justice Breyer particularly seemed to regard that idea as a stretch. I’ll have more later–I’ve been up since midnight and have only had two Snickers bars to eat–but in all it was a fascinating example of the nation’s top legal minds dealing with some very sophisticated questions.