No one can say for sure what the nine Supreme Court justices will decide regarding the challenge to the federal health care law.
But Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna of Wshington sounded confident Wednesday that the high court will discard the mandate to buy insurance he considers unconstitutional and keep much of the rest of the law.
“Based on the questions and comments justices made, supporters of the individual mandate are justifiably nervous,” McKenna said a few hours after the high court concluded its third and final day of oral arguments in the case brought by 26 states, including Washington.
McKenna made Washington part of the multi-state lawsuit primarily because of his opposition to the law’s requirement that, starting in 2014, nearly every American buy health insurance or pay a fine. He’s also said he doesn’t think the entire law should be tossed out, though that is what the multi-state action seeks to do.
For McKenna, the outcome will certainly find its way into his bid for governor against Democratic candidate Jay Inslee, an ardent booster of the federal law when he served in Congress.
Obviously, if the ruling by the justices mirrors McKenna’s view, then it will provide him a bit of a buffer from political attack by supporters of Inslee. If it doesn’t, well, it could be a decisive issue.
Justices debated the mandate on Tuesday and spent parts of Tuesday and today discussing whether eliminating that mandate torpedoes the entire law.
After reading some of the transcripts, McKenna said he “didn’t hear much to suggest the majority of the court would want to throw out the whole law.”
He said it appeared to him Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy will wind up being the votes that decide the fate of the mandate and the future of the law.
A decision is expected in June. Whatever they rule, he said, they are going to be “very mindful this case is historic about what it means for our understanding of limits of federal power.”