On Thursday, just after 10 a.m., the big moment will finally arrive: The Supreme Court will hand down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature piece of domestic legislation.
The central question about the proceedings: Will the court strike down the law or its key component, the individual mandate, as March's contentious oral arguments signaled it might do? Or will the court uphold its constitutionality?
In a town full of leaks, the runup to the decision has been remarkable for its secrecy. Even longtime court observers admit they don't really have a clue what will happen on Thursday.
All the uncertainty has, of course, has given rise to a cottage industry of armchair prognosticators. Some of them are legislators, some seasoned legal minds, some pundits. It's certainly worth keeping mind that in the past, even experts' predictions about Supreme Court rulings have been no more accurate than a coin toss.
But never mind all that for now. Where's the smart money for Thursday?
The Mandate Is Going Down
Surveyed Former Supreme Court Clerks: Most of the clerks found the Supreme Court’s questioning to be more skeptical than they had expected. As one clerk put it to Purple Strategies’ Doug Usher, who conducted the research, “I feel like a dope, because I was one of those who predicted that the court would uphold the statute by a lopsided majority. … It now appears pretty likely that this prediction was way off.”
Constitutional Law Scholars:
Christina Whitman, a University of Michigan law professor: “The precedent makes this a very easy case. But the oral argument indicated that the more conservative justices are striving to find a way to strike down the mandate."
Dan McLaughlin, RedState: "Forced to predict, I’ll predict that the court will strike down the individual mandate, 5-4. I can’t say I’m overwhelmingly confident in that prediction."
Bettors On InTrade:
ABC News: "According to the Ireland-based market Intrade, where nearly 600 people have bought what amounts to futures stocks on the outcome of the court case, the cornerstone of the president's health care law -- the individual mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance -- has a 76 percent chance of being deemed unconstitutional."
Avik Roy, Forbes: "The most likely scenario is what I’ve predicted for months: that the court will strike down the individual mandate and all of Title I, which contains the law’s reordering of the private insurance market. On the other hand, the court is likely to let the rest of the law stand."
Andrew Sullivan: It will strike down the mandate alone.
The Law Will Be Upheld
Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSblog: I believe the mandate will not be invalidated tomorrow. Far less important, I expect the principal opinion will be written by the Chief Justice; a majority of the court will find it has jurisdiction; and the challenge to the Medicaid expansion will be rejected."
Legal Experts Polled By The Guardian (by a 4-1 vote):
Timothy S. Jost, professor at the Washington and Lee University school of law: "When the court takes a long hard look at the harm that a ruling nullifying the Affordable Care Act would do both to millions of uninsured Americans and to the legitimacy of the court, and when they consider seriously the expansive deference they have accorded Congress in their prior decisions, they will uphold the law in full."
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich: "As Chief Justice, Roberts has a particular responsibility to regain the public’s trust. Another 5-4 decision overturning a piece of legislation as important as Obamacare would further erode that trust."
Nancy Pelosi: "We're ironclad on the constitutionality."