March 26 will be a big day in the United States and not because it's a Kardashian wedding day. That day, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin to hear oral agreements on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
This case shows how difficult it is to make major policy changes in the United States. In 2008, candidate Barack Obama called for the need to reform the healthcare system here. In 2009, Congress began consideration of the legislation and passed it after more than a year of debate. Now it's 2012 and we still don't know if the law will stand or become a historical artifact.
The crux of the case is the constitutionality of the law's mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance. More than 20 state attorneys general brought a suit against the new law to federal court because they claimed that the Constitution does not give the federal government the authority to force anybody to buy anything. Defenders of the law argue that Congress's authority to mandate the purchase of health insurance is lawful under the interstate commerce clause. Critics respond that the refusal to buy insurance is actually a decision not to participate in interstate commerce so that clause does not apply.
The Supreme Court took the case because there is a serious constitutional question at issue after federal district and circuit court judges from all over the country issued conflicting rulings. The four liberal judges on the court will probably vote to uphold the constitutionality of the law while the four conservative judges will presumably vote to nullify. The big question is whether the swing justice on the court, Anthony Kennedy will vote to sustain or nullify the law.
Now the Obama team is putting on a full court PR press to galvanize the strong support that the new law enjoys with women. Last week the administration met with groups that support the law to plan the campaign to put public pressure on the Supreme Court. This week nurses across America will speak in support. Next week, there will be testimonials from women whom the new law has already helped. During the oral arguments, there will demonstrations on the grounds of the Supreme Court to support the Affordable Care Act.
The Obama team's effort to galvanize support for the healthcare reform law is part of a larger effort to mobilize the support of women for the president's re-election. After GOP attacks on birth control and Rush Limbaugh's disgusting treatment of Sandra Fluke, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll shows that the president has a 18 percent lead among women over former Gov. Mitt Romney.
The Supreme Court is the arbiter of the legal meaning of the Constitution but there is an axiom that the court watches the election returns. In a few months, we'll find out if the judges watch TV news shows as well as the election returns.