The Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared deeply critical Tuesday of the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance, the constitutional issue at the core of the legal challenges to President Obama's landmark health care overhaul.
Three of the four most conservative members of the high court expressed deep reservations that upholding the mandate could significantly alter the powers of the federal government. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the court's swing vote, also expressed skepticism. The fifth conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, was silent.
The court's four liberal justices appeared more convinced that the government has the authority to compel people to buy insurance because their uninsured status affects others' costs, and they will need health care eventually. Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts voiced some sympathy for that view as well.
The insurance mandate is the single most controversial part of the 2-year-old health care law. It has also raised significant questions about the scope of Congress' power to regulate the nation's economy and is at the core of the challenge to the health care law.