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Healthcare mandate debated on U.S. Supreme Court

(Xinhua)

10:53, March 28, 2012

People hold banners during a protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, on March 27, 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday began three-day oral arguments in the landmark case involving the Affordable Care Act, the signature healthcare overhaul of President Barack Obama. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday entered its second day of oral arguments in the landmark case involving the Affordable Care Act, the signature healthcare overhaul of President Barack Obama, with justices quizzing lawyers on whether it is constitutional to force people to buy health insurance.

The mandate is the core of the healthcare reform, and is challenged by 26 states and a business group. Conservative justices appeared to be deeply skeptical that the Constitution gives the Congress power to levy a fine if people failed to buy health insurance, with liberal justices supporting the federal government's argument.

However, with only four liberal leaning justices and five conservative leaning justices on the bench, the federal government needs at least one conservative justice to side with them, but media reports here pointed out all five conservative justices, including the traditional "swing vote" Justice Anthony Kennedy, sharply questioned Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. Yet, commentators say how justices question isn't always an indicator of how they will rule, especially in high profile cases.

The court's ruling won't come before June, but protesters have showed up the second day in a row at the steps of the court, with both supporters and opponents of the law loudly protesting.

As the presidential election gets underway, the healthcare law is a hot issue in the campaign, as the Republicans argue that forcing people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional, while the Democrats argue the mandate could bring down the cost of insurance. The ruling of the case could have big impact on the election.

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