By Tony Mauro
On the first of three historic days of oral argument, the Supreme Court appeared reluctant to find that the challenges to the Affordable Care Act are premature or should be dismissed.
The justices heard 90 minutes of argument on whether an 1867 law that requires individuals to pay a tax before they can challenge it applies to the health care law. The arguments ended about 11:40 a.m. Monday.
Covington & Burling partner Robert Long argued that the provision of the law that requires people to pay a penalty if they don't buy insurance "has all the indicia of a tax." But several justices pointed out that the health care law does not use the word "tax," suggesting that they don't believe the Anti-Injunction Act applies.
Justices seemed more receptive to the argument by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. that the penalty is not a tax, and that the justices can proceed to rule on the constitutionality of the health care law. Those arguments will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The courtroom was packed with members of the Supreme Court bar and the general public, as well as more than 100 reporters from around the world. Outside the high court, more than 100 protesters on both sides of the health care issue demonstrated in the hopes of influencing the Court and public opinion.