Mar 27, 2012 6:12 PM GMT
The fate of the individual mandate -- requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a financial penalty -- may be in jeopardy, and perhaps with it the entire law's other 450 or so sections, based on tough questions of the government by the court's conservative majority.
Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, said questions asked at oral arguments often show how justices are thinking, and based on what he heard Tuesday, the health care reform law could be in "grave danger."
To Toobin, the court's four liberal justices -- Ginsburg, Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer -- were clearly supportive of the law's constitutionality, while conservative justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia appeared certain to rule against the law.
With Justice Clarence Thomas also considered certain to vote on the conservative side, the issue would be decided by the remaining votes of Kennedy and Roberts, Toobin said.
However, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the federal government "is telling an individual he has the obligation he must act" and purchase insurance.
"That threatens to change the relationship between the government and the individual in a profound way," Kennedy said.
If Congress could regulate health care in the name of commerce, added Chief Justice John Roberts, "all bets are off" on a range of areas subject to federal oversight.