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The moment that conservative America has been waiting for these past two years is nearly upon us.
This week the Supreme Court will hear arguments to determine the constitutionality of
ObamaCare, the health care reform law that has become the president's signature legislative accomplishment as well as the most powerful weapon in his rivals' arsenal.
Justices will devote three days of oral arguments to the issue -- the most consideration given to any one law in nearly five decades -- but particular attention should be paid to tomorrow's debate concerning the individual mandate, that component of the law that imposes a low annual fee on individuals who refuse to pursue insurance coverage. The legality of the individual mandate, widely demonized by the right as a freedom-crushing measure synonymous with government takeover, may determine the ultimate fate of the whole song and dance.
(Point of fact: The individual mandate is a Republican idea, developed by a conservative think tank, first proposed by Republican legislators, originally made law by a Republican governor and now vehemently opposed nearly uniformly by the Republican party.)
So why the individual mandate? Well, conservative experts -- including, perhaps most infamously, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney -- understood the economic necessity of bringing more individuals into the private insurance system as a means of lowering costs and improving services. The individual mandate, they concluded, ensures that insurers remain profitable enough to provide high-level services to all Americans.
In an unabashed indictment of party politics, conservatives opposed the idea as soon as Obama picked it up in 2008. But supporters of the so-called mandate point out that current industry wrongs -- like excluding pre-existing conditions and shifting health costs onto taxpayers -- far exceed any freedom crushing that might be claimed against it. As MIT economist Jonathan Gruber puts it: "No longer will people be bankrupted because they have a bad gene or a bad traffic accident."
The Supreme Court won't come back with a decision until sometime this summer. If the justices rule against the mandate, that could tank the whole law. And if they don't? Well, don't expect Republicans to let that get in the way.
A quick update on the language: President Obama, on the reform law's two-year anniversary last week, finally embraced the "ObamaCare" smear once and for all. "You want to call it ObamaCare," he told an Atlanta audience on Friday, "that's OK, because I do care." We therefore feel it is now appropriate to refer to the dreaded health law as its right-wing opponents intended.
Follow Brayden Simms on Twitter @metropolitik